After declaring on here a couple of week’s ago that there would no longer be themes to these mixes, I found that on the first completion of this week’s mix, that’s exactly what I’d gone and done. You’ll probably guess from the first couple of tunes, and then another couple later on, this was going to one which featured nothing but pop records
So having painted myself into a bit of a corner, I had to U-turn faster than Liz Truss’ car in Autopilot mode; fortuitously, me dropping a load of pop songs from a mix and sticking a whole load more in their place doesn’t have the effect of crashing the economy. Again.
Because this week’s has been subject to several revisions, I’ve not had time to write any sleeve notes again. I’m sure you’ll learn to live with that.
So, here you go: 18 songs, 63 1/2 minutes of partly poppy fun:
Tonight, a song which, when I first heard the album it lives on, was probably my least favourite song by the band in question. And that’s despite it featuring rather a good joke, which I can’t be the only one to have noticed, but which I’ve never seen anyone else mention.
Tonight’s song is by The Smiths, and is lifted from their final studio album, 1987’s Strangeways Here We Come.
Now. I know many people feel conflicted about The Smiths these days, on account of Morrissey turning out to be a a supporter of extreme right wing views. But back in the 80s, he and his lyrics, combined with Johnny Marr’s often juxtaposed guitar work, were the main appeal of The Smiths.
Integral parts of the whole that they were, literally nobody loved The Smiths because of Mike Joyce’s drumming or Andy Rourke’s bass lines. It was all about Morrissey’s tormented words, making a virtue of solitude and outsider-ness, offset against Marr’s chiming, jangly guitar.
How we all laughed, as we earnestly did our Morrissey impressions on the dancefloors of indie clubs, wearing our cardigans, pretending to have either a hearing aid or a fistful of gladioli, wagging a finger and furrowing our brow as we sang-a-long-a-Mozzer.
We suspected, of course, that something was not quite right – the interview where he announced that “all reggae is vile”, for example (he’s just thinking of UB40, surely?) – but these thoughts never encroached or disturbed the lyrical content, which remained steadfastly both left-wing and Northern. But we chose to ignore it.
Until tonight’s record.
I’d like to think that Marr had some degree of creative control, and refused to allow some lyrics through. He doesn’t mention it in his excellent autobiography, Set The Boy Free, but then again he was never the kiss-and-tell type.
And although Death of a Disco Dancer seems to be a pondering of life, death and the afterlife, that title has always bothered me. It seems to at best to witheringly accept, at worst condone, the bludgeoning of someone who likes disco music – a genre usually associated with either gay or ethnic communities – in a manner which didn’t manifest itself again until Morrissey’s solo work – see Bengali in Platforms‘ “Life is hard enough when you belong here”, or all of The National Front Disco, with all it’s orchestrated Union Jack waving, skinhead baiting Finsbury Park rhetoric.
So what to do? Do we deny our experience and love of The Smiths on the basis of what Morrissey patently is, or at best, has become. I know of many people who cannot bring themselves to listen to the band’s records, because of what he now represents. I get that, totally.
Me? Until now, I’ve made a disctinction between him in The Smiths and his solo work. The Smiths stuff has the dust blown of its grooves every now and again, but the solo Morrissey records have obstinantly remained on the racks. Fortuitously, much of the latter has been dull and plodding pub-rock – watch his band try and perform The Smiths’ hits live compared with how Marr handles it, and there’s a world of difference.
My rule has been this: post nothing of his solo work, but if you absolutely must, thenposting The Smiths is fine because everything was (almost) okay back then.
On my commute to and from work on Friday, my trusty iPod kept shuffling Smiths’ tunes into my ears which I’d not listened to in ages because, well….because. And it was lovely to hear I Don’t Owe You Anything, and tonight’s tune, and Rusholme Ruffians. And then it gave me Suedehead, and I began pondering cancel culture.
Suedehead is a magificent record which holds many memories for me; am I to deny myself the pleasure of ever listening to it, of reliving those memories, simply because I disagree with the singer’s political views? Am I heck.
Have I stopped posting Ian Brown’s records because he was a vocal anti-vaxxer? No. I rarely post anything from his solo canon because it’s not very good (bar F.E.A.R.).
Do I refuse to post anything by Gary Numan just because he does more than dress to the right? No (but again, get passed Are Friends Electric? and Cars and there’s little I’d be likely to mention.
Why do radio stations continue to play Micahel Jackson, but not Gary Glitter? Does it make a difference that one was convicted whilst the other paid off his accusers victims?
The list goes on. And the thing with being cancelled is that rarely has the person moaning about having been excluded actually been so – if they had, then we wouldn’t hear them complaining about it.
So I refuse to deny myself the pleasure of listening to or featuring records by artist swith whom I disagree. But when I do, I’ll be mentioning why I feel conflicted. And I think I’ve covered that tonight.
So here’s Death of a Disco Dancer in all it’s possibly racist and homophobic, sounds-a-bit-like Dear Prudence grandeur:
And here’s Morrissey wearing a For Britain badge on The Jimmy Fallon Show in May 2019:
And here’s a close-up, just in case you weren’t sure:
And as for that joke I mentioned earlier? Well, the pawing at the piano described as being keyboards on that is none other than Morrissey himself, and this after him singing on The Queen is Dead : “She says ‘I know you and you cannot sing’; I said ‘That’s nothing you should hear me play piano!'”.
That joke isn’t funny anymore.
But this is: Jools Holland playing piano with The Beach Boys after Adam Buxton has “just tweaked the sound ever so slightly”:
I say “there’s only one song”, but of course, I have some others (and count yourself lucky that I couldn’t think of an hour’s worth or this post would be appearing as a mix tomorrow night).
Let’s start with that image up top, HRH beamed onto Stonehenge. What is the fecking point of that? What are we trying to say? That she’s been on the throne so long she was around when those stones were put in place? That she was created by druids? That she looks particularly fine at the summer solstice? That she has lots of nice hats?
Regular readers will not be surprised to learn that, screaming lefty/woke snowflake (delete as applicable) that I am, I’m not exactly the biggest fan of the Royal family. Give me The Royle Family any day (Everton fans, I do not mean Joe Royle, although I’m sure they’re lovely).
Even if I was, I think I’d find it in rather poor taste that, as we go into a cost of living crisis, we’re – to use a phrase coined by our (at the time of writing) #CrimeMinister – “spaffing” millions of pounds up the wall to put on events up and down the country which even she can’t be bothered to turn up to is too old and unstable on her feet to attend. Of course, chuck in a few horses and Alan Titchmarsh and she’s up and out of bed faster than if somebody had wafted some gin in front of her sister.
Still, I suppose with street parties being thrown up and down the country, perhaps the pressure on food banks might be temporarily relieved…
“It’s a waste of time if you know what they mean Try shaking a box in front of the Queen ‘Cause her purse is fat and bursting at the seams It’s a waste of time if you know what they mean.”
There is, of course, a Platinum Party At The Palace, and here’s who’s performing:
I suspect that HRH knows even fewer of those names than I do.
And frankly, with the exception of Elton (provided he’s not in Pub Singer mode) and Nile Rogers, I don’t think there’s anyone there that I’d change channels to watch either. (In case you were thinking of challenging me on this, I’ve seen Diana Ross before, and I’m not overly keen on repeating that…)
The Venn diagram, if I were to compose one, of Conservative voters/supporters of the #CrimeMinister, would doubtless show a large overlap where those that think he is doing a good job intersect with those who bloody love The Queen. Which is odd when you think back a few months and recall that he has had to apologise twice to Her Madge: firstly, for the ruddy great parties that were held in Downing Street on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral, when he said: ““I deeply and bitterly regret that that happened…I can only renew my apologies both to Her Majesty and to the country for misjudgements that were made, and for which I take full responsibility.”
“Renew” is an interesting word there, because of course this was not the first time that he had to apologise to HRH; back in 2019 he apparently rang the Queen to personally apologise for embarrassing her after the Supreme Court ruled his prorogation of Parliament was unlawful.
He didn’t apologise for doing it, mind, oh no. He apologised for any embarrassment him doing it caused her.
What I’m saying is this: if you still support our #CrimeMinister and are celebrating the Platinum Jubilee, then congratulations. In psychology, this holding of two opposing ideas in your mind at the same time is known as cognitive dissonance. But to quote F. Scott Fitzgerald: “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless yet be determined to make them otherwise.”
Truly, you have “first-rate intelligence”, unfettered by logic or reason. Well done you.
So when over the weekend I will doubtless see footage of people waving Union Jack flags, dressed in Union Jack apparel and scoffing some sausage rolls at a street party as they cheer HRH, this song will be playing in my head:
“The people who grinned themselves to death Smiled so much they failed to take a breath And even when their kids were starving They all thought The Queen was charming.”
Earlier, I touched on the cost of these celebrations, and there is another point which you should consider here: it was only a matter of a few months ago that HRH reputedly paid £2 million ($2.7 million) so that Virginia Giuffre would drop her civil sexual assault case against non-sweaty poster boy for Pizza Express (Woking branch) Prince Andrew. Which, of course – same as Michael Jackson did with all those families claiming he was a a paedophile – one would do if he was totally innocent of all charges, as claimed…
*Now expanded to include La La La’s, Do-be-do-be-do’s, Na Na Na Na Na’s and all points in between.
Today, a band who could easily feature in this series quite a lot.
The lead singer, who we all try not to name these days, did have a bit of a habit of filling out his songs with trite la-la-la’s and the such.
But the other night, channel surfing before I went to bed, I chanced upon a show on the Sky Arts channel called The Great Songwriters. Each episode features a different (great) songwriter, and I’d caught one previously that I had really enjoyed which featured Paul Heaton, of The Housemartins, The Beautiful South and Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbot fame, of whom I am a huge fan, and I really enjoyed the programme.
The format goes a bit like this: interviewee is asked about a certain phase of their career, then asked about a certain song within that phase, which they explain how they came to write, before performing it so you can see what they mean.
Heaton did all his performances backed just by a chap on an acoustic guitar, but the guitarist who was the subject on the episode I stumbled onto had his full band to back him up.
This, the opening track from Meat is Murder, isn’t the version in question, but it’s close enough:
There’s so much to love about Johnny Marr: from his resolute refusal to reform The Smiths, to the incredible back catalogue he has accrued, to his ever burgeoning confidence in his own vocals, which you can see grows from record to record.
I’ve been to Morrissey gigs and I’ve been to Johnny Marr gigs, and when the old favourites get wheeled out, I know who I would prefer to see play them every time: Marr. And not just because of the bequiffed gladioli waver’s dodgy political views, but because Marr has put a band together behind him who can actually play those songs properly, as opposed to Morrissey’s bunch of pub-rockers who seem to turn every cover version they turn their hand to into a turgid stodge of backroom bar mediocrity.
Anyway, I’m sure his former band will feature in this series again at some point soon: I just hope Marr’s done a good enough version of the original so I don’t have to post it.
Here we are again, this week with the penultimate part of my six-hour mix, divided into six parts for your ‘delectation’.
And this week I think it’s fair to say we’re going full-on Indie Disco, albeit one from circa 1992 (with a few notable exceptions).
It’s also fair to say that once we’ve got past the chanting monks at the start of the first tune (and what better way is there to start a mix than with some chanting monks, right?) we go very LOUD before settling down to a mix of songs you’ll know, some you’ll have forgotten about, and possibly some that you’ve never heard before. Which is exactly how an Indie Disco should be, in my book: entertain and educate.
Many of these tunes remind me of when I used to DJ at college, but two in particular remind me of the first time I DJ’d in around 10 years or so (I’m excluding the time Llŷr and I DJ’d at a friend’s wedding, as all I did that day was hand him records to play).
I was at a party at Hel’s old flat in North London; our friend Ruth, her decks set up on the breakfast bar which looked out on to the living room-cum-dancefloor, has just performed a mammoth set of around 8 hours. People were starting to leave, and I figured she deserved a break. It was around 4am when I sidled up to her: “Do you mind if I have a go?” She nearly bit my hand off, and went and sat on the sofa with Hel.
Since they were practically my entire audience, every one else having left or crashed out, I decided to play some quieter stuff. My first choice caused both of my audience to break off their conversation momentarily, look in my direction, and go “Awwww!” I repeated the trick with my second choice. “Ahhhhhh!”, sighed the two ladies.
“Still got it,” I thought to myself, and played for another hour or so, until it was time to pack the decks away so Ruth could go home too.
I shan’t spoil things by telling you which two tunes I played, but you’ll spot them alright. Partly because, if you know the tunes in question (and I’d be very surprised if you don’t recognise either of them) you’ll probably make similar noises to Hel and Ruth when they start (I’ve put them together here, for maximum effect), but mostly because I couldn’t resist putting a massive sign-post in right before them.
I’ve done mixes, playlists, call them what you will, for years in various guises, from mix-tapes played in the 6th Form common room, in the motorway ‘restaurant’ I worked in during the holidays at 6th Form and at college (and for a year after I graduated), and in the video shop I pretended to work in after I finally graduated, all were sound-tracked by an ever-growing collection of mix-tapes. DJ’ing at college was almost inevitable, really. And then, when I left college – bar a very short, unpleasant stint working for a mobile DJ in Cardiff in the early 90s, which I’ll tell you about some other time (if I haven’t do so already) – nothing.
It was in those moments, standing in Hel’s kitchen, playing to an audience of two awake people and several sleeping ones, that I realised how much I missed DJ’ing, which is why I do these mixes.
So whilst the last of the six parts will be here next week, I’m already adding the final touches to the one for the week after. In short: tough luck, I’m not stopping just yet.
Time for the usual disclaimer: any skips and jumps in the mix are down to the mixing software; any mis-timed mixes are down to me (although on this one, it’s all about the timing rather than the mixing, as the cross-fader literally didn’t move from it’s central position throughout this one).
I’m not sure if that’s something I should be proud of, let alone advertise, to be honest…
There is, as usual, a little bit of potty-mouthed effing and jeffing, only on one song (I think), and as you cast your eye down the track-listing below, you’ll have no problem identifying which one it is. Previous mixes have contained worse (and next week’s mix definitely does), but it would be remiss of me not slap one of these on it for those of a delicate constitution:
Super Furry Animals – (Drawing) Rings Around The World
Teenage Fanclub – Star Sign (Remastered)
The Soup Dragons – Slow Things Down
Strawberry Switchblade – Since Yesterday
Blur – Coffee + TV (Radio Edit)
Pulp – Something Changed
One Dove – White Love (Radio Mix)
Prince – Little Red Corvette
Next week is, then, the final part of this series, where the cross-fader is in full effect as I give you over an hour of dance bangers (as I believe “The” “Kids” say, or used to anyway), which tests my actual mixing skills to the maximum, including as it does what my mate Rob insists is “the hardest tune in the world to mix in or out of.”
For quite some time now, I’ve been pondering what it is that is preventing me from posting with the same regularity as I was last year.
I’ve worked it out.
Regular readers will know that I generally sit on a Friday night, have a few drinks and write posts for the next week. But for a while now, I’ve become preoccupied on doing a new mix.
Warning: artist at work excuse incoming.
See, whilst they seem remarkably unpopular, I really enjoy piecing together a long playlist/mix/call it what you will, and that inevitably means a few drafts which don’t quite, to quote Echo & The Bunnymen, cut the mustard.
So, I’ve been working on this mix for some time now, but somehow something always seemed to prevent me from finishing it, be it me tinkering with the running order, or thinking of new tunes to toss in, or some kind of technical calamity, or (more often) listening to it and realising I’ve utterly messed up a mix and I simply can’t bear to have anyone else listen to it.
I’m not going to pretend all of the mixes between tunes here are perfect – there’s at least one which I know isn’t – but I’ve reached the point where it’s close enough to let it go and move on to something else, before I drive myself mad searching for perfection.
So here’s my latest mix, imperfect though it may be; frustrating as it has been, I really like this one, which starts off in the usual way – slowly – before getting into a groove which includes Kings of Leon from before they went stadium and knew how to use a cowbell, a new(ish) track by The Chemical Brothers, an obligatory Soulwax remix, two of the finest female pop stars going: Miley Cyrus & Dua Lipa (not on the same tune, sadly), the occasional hidden ‘joke’ (by which I mean it seemed funny when I first put the songs together, less so now), via Madonna having a short chat with Johnny Cash.
It’s the usual mix of songs you love, songs you’ve forgotten about, and songs which make you think “What the hell has he put this on here for??”. Some might say eclectic, but I couldn’t possibly comment. Think mainly Indie guitar stuff, with a few dance tunes, 80s pop songs and a couple of timeless classics – at least one of which you probably won’t have heard before – thrown in.
As always, no track-listing – I like to imagine your faces when the next song kicks in – but there’s a list of featured artists on the right hand side in case you want to see what you’re letting yourself in for. Which is a treat, obviously. If you desperately need to know what a track is, either Shazam it or, if you’d like to feed my ego, ask me via the Comments at the bottom of this post.
Usual disclaimer: any skips and jumps are down to the mixing software; any mis-timed mixes (and, as I say, there is at least one) is down to me. Either way: Sorry!
One more thing: you may recall that last time out I mentioned that my brother had said he managed to predict what I was going to play next, which annoyed me greatly. No such criticism of the last mix, although he told me he listened to it whilst out on his morning run, so some of the sudden gear changes weren’t helpful. I’ve tried to rectify that this time, with a relatively steady beat and tempo maintained throughout (after you’ve got past the traditional slow start) for those of you who listen to this whilst doing your exercises (not that I really understand what that means). The danger was that it would denigrate into either a Ministry of Sound pumping dance mix or a Top Gear/Best Driving Songs…in the World…Ever! playlist, but I think the song choices just about keep us on the right side of that happening.
Let’s say it starts slowly, gets into a groove, and then has more false endings than a Status Quo single.
I’m a bit annoyed that since I first decided to include it, at least on song here has popped up in an advert – and you know how I feel about them – for burgers, of all things. Rest assured, the advert in question was not the inspiration for the song’s inclusion. You’ll know it when you hear it, I think.
Oh and there are several songs which feature effing and jeffings – “sexual swear words” as Simon Bates used to say at the start of videos – so please avoid if you are easily offended by unfettered vulgarity and sauciness. Look, there’s a Goldie Lookin’ Chain tune which is probably the rudest and most inappropriate (but funny) thing I’ll ever post, so beware.
For a limited time (until I do another one, so y’know, could be months), you can stream or download it via Soundcloud here.
It’s Saturday morning, and you know what that means around Dubious Towers: either I’ve written the next part of The Chain (spoiler alert: I haven’t) or I’m about to vent my spleen about something or other that has irritated me this week.
There’s been too much good news recently in my book, what with Biden winning the US election (Pah! So he says!), Dominic Cummings getting kicked out of No. 10 (I thought the news that he’s been offered the gig of turning on the Christmas lights at Barnham Castle was just too delicious to be true, but I hope it is), that a potential cure for Coronavirus has been found, and a new series of I’m a Celebrity…set not in the inhospitable Australian jungle but in what is apparently the UK equivalent: Wales, has started. Personally, I’m looking forward to week three, when the endurance test sees the remaining contestants have to sit through several hours of the Eistedfodd, politely applauding at yet another parade of children in national dress whilst placating someone’s Nana with platitudes about the quality of her home-baked Welsh cakes.
*Looks around for something to shout about*
How about Priti Patel? Nah, too easy. But just in case you’ve not followed the story: this week, a report was released at the conclusion of an inquiry into the conduct of the current Home Secretary, following the resignation of top civil servant at the Home Office Sir Philip Rutnam in March. Rutnam alleged staff felt Ms Patel had “created fear” within the governmental department through her bullying behaviour.
The inquiry was launched by PM “Shagger” Johnson, who placed trusted ally Sir Alex Allan at the helm of the investigation, and the results were, if not damning, then not flattering either.
The Ministerial Code says “…ministers should be professional in their working relationships with the civil service and treat all those with whom they come into contact with consideration and respect…harassing, bullying or other inappropriate or discriminating behaviour wherever it takes place is not consistent with the Ministerial Code”.
Surprise, surprise, Allam’s report found that Patel had broken the code governing ministers’ behaviour. It says that: “…[she has] become – justifiably in many instances – frustrated by the Home Office leadership’s lack of responsiveness and the lack of support she felt in the Department for International Development (Dfid) three years ago...The evidence is that this has manifested itself in forceful expression, including some occasions of shouting and swearing...This may not be done intentionally to cause upset, but that has been the effect on some individuals.”
(Let’s not forget, of course, that Patel has form when it comes to the Ministerial Code. I won’t go over it all again, but if you want to read something I wrote when these allegations first arose, you can do so here.)
Ah. “Not done intentionally”. There’s your get out clause, right there, which Patel seized upon. Cue a public apology which fooled nobody, where Patel, for once almost managing to contain that trademark smirk as she spoke, said that “…any upset I have caused was completely unintentional…” and that “…issues were not pointed out to her.”
Actually, Sir Philip Rutnam paints a different picture: “As early as August 2019, the month after her appointment, she was advised that she must not shout and swear at staff…I advised her on a number of further occasions between September 2019 and February 2020 about the need to treat staff with respect.”
The report, however, states that “…no evidence that [Patel] was aware of the impact of her behaviour, and no feedback was given to her at the time”.
Sir Rutnam was not asked to give evidence to the inquiry, which might explain that.
What we have here, of course, is a classic example of the NMA – that’s a Not-Meant Apology – which usually includes the phrase “I’m sorry if my actions caused offence…”.
There’s no “if” about it here, is there? Her actions did cause offence, people complained, an inquiry found that she had caused offence, so the element of doubt introduced by the hypothetical “if” is removed.
What I find incomprehensible is that were the busted politician, or whoever, to offer a full apology, devoid of get-out clauses, then they would almost certainly earn the respect of the majority of the public. We’d probably be willing to cut them some slack: they’ve admitted what they did, they’ve apologised, let them get on with their apparently invaluable work drowning desperate immigrants in the English Channel, and we’ll check back in a while and see whether they’ve actually learned anything from the whole experience.
And of course, the outcome of this was PM “Spaffer” Johnson rejecting the findings of the inquiry and announcing he did not think Patel is a bully and he has “full confidence” in her – you know, like he did in Dominic Cummings after his drive-up North during lock-down.
What is the point of launching an inquiry into a set of allegations, putting your own man at the helm, and then dismissing the findings because they weren’t the ones you wanted? Bit Trumpian, isn’t it? The inquiry cost the tax-payer money, which would have been much better spent being handed over to an MP’s brother-in-law’s best mate, who runs a newsagent in Bristol Temple Meads, but reckons he can secure all the PPE the NHS needs for the next ten years.
It makes me wonder: was the term “bully” the term used for a member of The Bullingdon Club? In which case it’s no wonder Johnson doesn’t recognise Patel as being one: there’s no way a woman of colour would ever be allowed to enter The Club unless they were part of the catering team.
And of course, the person who loses their job as a result of this is…you got it: not Patel, but Sir Alex Allan, who quit after learning that Johnson was going to take absolutely no notice of the report’s findings. Of course it wasn’t Patel: we all now know that the only way to get Johnson to fire you is to say something unkind about his girlfriend.
So perhaps Patel’s behaviour should be encouraged: let her bully, shout and swear at as many people as she likes. The law of averages says that of every, say, 10,000 expletives, one is going to refer to the mother of one of his children, and so it’s only a matter of time before she gets to the current one (whoever that might be at the time).
But we’re not talking about Patel this morning. I have something much more worthwhile to rant about: adverts.
Regular readers will know this is a topic which grinds my gears a lot, but usually it’s because of them appropriating (read: being given permission to use) a song I love for some poxy campaign or other.
But that’s not what is getting right on my tits at the moment; for a start it’s the fake sincerity of some of the adverts, the ones where they pretend they’re not really after your money, they really care about you.
I’m thinking predominantly of the tag-line which appears on the advertisements or any of the many gambling websites which now exist: “When the fun stops, stop”. This slogan was introduced by the gambling industry-funded responsible betting body Senet Group in 2015, but seems to be more prevalent recently.
And it’s bullshit.
By which I mean, the advice is sound, but do those using it really mean it? Do you really think Paddy of Paddy Power fame really wants you to spend less money with them? Do they heck. They want you to think they care, but of course they just want your money:
Because if everyone who gambles stopped betting the moment “the fun” stops, the gambling sites and bookies’ profits would be drastically reduced. The fun stops the moment you lose money. But those with addiction issues find it near impossible to walk away: play one more hand, and I can win that money back, they convince themselves. And then they lose that, but carry on, now even more desperate, and so on, and so on, until they’re broke, sleeping in a bus shelter and shouting at pigeons (who probably deserve it).
And I say this from personal experience: in my first year at Polytechnic Uni, I became friends with a chap who loved playing quiz machines and fruit machines. I would often stand at his side when he played the quiz machine in the Students Union bar, chipping in with an answer every now and then. And then he would shift to the fruit machine, and a big crowd would gather, because they knew if he was playing it, it was probably going to pay out. And I would play the one next to him, with a considerably smaller crowd (i.e. none) as my pound coins rattled through at a speed that would make Usain Bolt blush, until my pockets were empty. I was so constantly skint during that first year -not to mention thin, my God, I was thin – my parents were convinced that I had taken up guzzling heroin. My mate, however, would finally win the £20 jackpot and walk away. “Are you up?” I would ask; “Broke even, in the end,” he would reply, which is gambler’s code for “No, I lost, but it could have been worse.”
Coming from a screaming leftie, this may sound odd, given the relaxing of the rules about advertising gambling sites and shops on television happened under the last (as opposed to The Last, I hope) Labour government, but they got it wrong and it needs to be redressed.
This idea that companies advertising care about you goes further. During Lockdown #1 you will have seen countless adverts which included webcam footage (not that sort, you mucky pup), of employees of firms, and most of these were banks, it seemed. Unsaid, the message was this: “Look at us. We’re working from home, just like you. We’re the same, you and I. Because we’re so similar, perhaps you should think about maybe giving me some more of your money to look after…?”
As restrictions eased, those same companies and banks changed tack: now it was all about how they were doing their best to help you maintain social distancing should you ever, y’know, fancy popping into one of our stores/banks. Because they understood us and our concerns, they alone know what we want, and wouldn’t you just know it, whatever it was, they had it to sell you at a terribly reasonable price.
The tipping point came, I felt, in an advert I saw recently. Where previously, the effort to sell had been subtle and empathetic, suddenly there was a gear change with an advert which said – much as I did recently (without trying to sell you anything) – that people will be judging where you live when you’re doing your Lockdown #2 Zoom calls, and your kitchen is, frankly, shit, but it’s okay because we’ll sell you another shinier, newer one.
I preferred it when they were trying to be subtle and devious, I think, rather than blatant and exploitative. The only people who should be cashing in on Covid are those companies who have something to contribute to the cause, by which I don’t mean all of those handed contracts by the Government, of course.
It’s around this time of year, of course, that we all moan about Christmas adverts appearing on TV way too early, but I’m not an idiot, I understand the economy needs a massive boost, and purchasing Christmas presents and food and drink and all the rest is probably going to be the shot in the arm needed.
That was until I saw the Tesco ad campaign this week.
The ad shows lots of different people, confessing to their lockdown sins. I wouldn’t normally do this, because it’s a tad contradictory to slag an advert off but then give them free advertising, but I think it’s important that you know what I’m talking about here. So, here you go:
On the face of it, it’s a great idea: 2020 has been an absolute shit-show, so this year Santa isn’t going to be compiling his usual list of people who’ve been naughty and those who’ve been good. No, this year, we’re all absolved of our failings (see Priti, Santa says you’re off the hook too!), so long as we go to Tesco’s to buy our Christmas indulgences.
And it’s has an absolute banger (I was going say pig in blanket, but somehow that seems insulting) of a tune:
So there’s Tesco, encouraging us to visit their stores, and telling us that no matter what we did wrong this year, we’re forgiven.
There’s a flaw in this logic, isn’t there?
Perhaps the soundtrack to the advert should have been this:
Remember folks: there’s no naughty list this year! Fill your boots at Tesco!!
To be honest, the Christmas campaigns could have started in July for all I care because I think we’ve got bigger fish to fry this year, and that’s not the outrage racist Sainsburys shoppers have displayed at the not-as-posh-as-Waitrose supermarket chains’ having the audacity to feature a black family in this year’s advertising campaign…oh wait, not seen this?
OK, well, here’s their advert:
And here’s some of the delightfully enlightened comments left on Sainsbury’s Twitter feed:
There were many, many more, most of which were deleted when the tide of responses, thankfully, turned against them. Still, pretty safe to say that Chris, Chez and Tom are all hoping for a White Christmas. Enjoy shopping at Aldi, who have a much more palatable family of carrots in their adverts.
Anyway, I mean the still unanswered question about where we’re all going to be for Christmas in 2020.
As it stands, Lockdown #2 is due to finish on December 2nd, but the data at the moment is not showing any great improvement. And then you see headlines like this:
I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather our PM listened to the experts than battled them. We’ve been here before, of course, with the premature and contradictory easing of restrictions after Lockdown #1.
To me, if the experts say Lockdown #2 has to be extended, and that goes over Christmas, then so be it.
We’re not the most Christian of countries anyway, so Christmas is really just an excuse for families to get together. It can be done later, when things have got better.
I’ve never spent Christmas on my own, but if that’s what we’re told to do, then that’s what I’ll do. But don’t get me wrong: I love my family very much, and there’s nothing I would like more than to be able to go and visit my parents over Christmas. But if the choice is between doing that and possibly finishing them both off, or delaying seeing them for a few more weeks, then I, reluctantly, choose the latter.
Such a dramatic statement requires an equally dramatic soundtrack:
Now, I didn’t want to kick the weekend off with such a downer, so I had intended to include my favourite ever clip using that song. And it turns out it’s this, from Friends, when Joey and Chandler are trying to cope with living apart:
But what I wanted it to be was this, until I realised I had misremembered which song this auditionee was trying to perform: a different one to the one I’ve just posted:
Frankly, I don’t know how I’ve managed to avoid posting this song here already.
Originally tucked away on the B-Side of their William, It Was Really Nothing (2:11 and thus just too long to feature here) single, I remember Bobby Bluebell mentioning it in Smash Hits when he made it single of the week.
I’m paraphrasing Bobby’s review now, but this does what it has to do, says what it has to say, doesn’t outstay it’s welcome, and then leaves, beautifully.
For sure, it’s one of many jewels in their crown:
And this can be construed as a message to our voting friends over in the USA today, too.
I promise that I’m not going to start all of my posts with these words, but following the last instalment of The Chain I had an email from from long-time reader and Chain Gang contributor George who said that he was “toying with idea of making a cd of Chain 48”. (To any of our younger readers, CDs are what we used to record music on to and listen to music from before streaming and making playlists became things.)
Anyway, I thought this was an excellent idea, because I have a playlist for every edition of The Chain, the purpose of which was partly so that I could revisit and relive the good times and the bad, but mostly so that I could check whether something had already been suggested and therefore was precluded from being nominated again. You may have noticed I’ve been rather lax about this since The Chain returned, and that’s not going to change: I figure in these days of Trump & Johnson, of global pandemics*, international recessions, corruption at a governmental level, and starving children (it was The Chain or a Rant today), there’s more important things to worry about than duplications in The Chain back catalogue.
(*Sit down, New Zealand, I’m not talking about you)
Anyway, the point I am trying to make is that to get all of #48’s songs onto one CD would take a lot of editing choices, so I’d love to hear which songs made the cut – even more so should you decide on making one after you’ve read this one because this week (I say that like I post these every week, rather than every six weeks or so) we have just shy of 4 and 3/4 hours worth of tunes to get through, and I don’t think there’s a duff choice amongst them. Some ropey ones, yes, but duffers, no. But then Kay hasn’t suggested anything this time, so…..so maybe I should crack on.
Oh, and George (Incoming obligatory oblique 1970s TV reference that about 80% of you won’t get): I’m sorry but we aren’t able to return any drawings sent in, but yes, it is a big one, no I’ve never seen one quite that shape before, and no I don’t need you to send me a photo, but thank you for the offer.
OK, so let’s start as we usually do with a reminder of the source material this time around, which was this:
As you might expect, we have a lot of tunes related to Talk(ing), some related to Fear of Music (the album that features on), and then what I believe is the collective term for lots of suggestions on a similar theme: an absolute fuckload of songs linked to a specific city, or the words cities or city. As always, I’ll try to put them in an order that makes some kind of narrative sense (you’ve noticed I do that right?) but if you’re planning on doing yourself a playlist of these, I’d be interested to see if you think you’ve done better (NB: no I wouldn’t. Keep it to yourself, thanks very much).
Not quite first out of the traps this time was Swiss Adam from Bagging Area who, as he will explain, suggests a tune which simply demands to go first:
“Cities should have a theme and luckily we have an ahead of its time piece of ice cool euro dance that found a second life in the Balearic sounds of ’88 and thereafter:“
Now, I don’t profess to know anywhere near as much about that there dance music as our Swiss, but I do know that got used on a tune recorded by David Russell Lee, who used to be known under the stage name of Joey Negro. Lee also recorded under many other pseudonyms, including this one, which throws in a Queen sample for good measure, and I think is what Swiss means when he says “thereafter”, given this came out in 2001:
But since we’re already going off on tangents, here’s a factoid for you (lifted from Wiki, so large pinch of salt at the ready): In 1993, Lee was approached by Take That’s label with a view to working together. Lee suggested they covered an old hit by Dan Hartman, which hadn’t been a hit in the UK but which had become a popular club track in the house music scene. They did as suggested, replacing Loleatta Holloway from the original with – who else? – Scottish songstress Lulu and lo! the boy band’s second number one in the UK was born.
Anyway. Cities. I think next I’ll hand over to Rigid Digit from Stuff & Nonsense to get us back on track:
“Knowing too much about 3rd Division Punk Bands (as I do), the phrase “Cities” immediately brought forth [this]…It’s OK, in a mohican wearing punky thrashing type way, but probably not what you’re looking for.”
Turns out, that’s quite the accurate description. I’m also imagining a purple and black furry jumper:
I gather Westlife are planning to do a cover of that as their comeback single.
Well, we seem to have strayed into the territory of songs with the word Cities in their title, so here’s another couple of suggestions. Firstly, C from Sun Dried Sparrows who says “I’m just plumping for the very first thing that comes into my head as a kind of quick subconscious response and it is…..:”
…which is bound to lighten the mood.
Let’s see what George can conjure up this time:
“Taking the cities from the song, to Manchester City, whose best English footballer was Colin Bell, whose birthday is February 26th, the same date as Michael Bolton…[Oh, Jesus, no…. – Ed]…wait for it…Fats Domino [Better – Ed]…and Johnny Cash, so my song is…:”
I think at this point I should hand back to Rigid Digit, who gave me a whole host of acts who had recorded songs called In The City, the first of which was also suggested by Martin of New Amusements fame:
..and this (just Rigid Digit now):
and (which, if I was still giving points out, would earn a couple for being in one of the coolest films ever, but I’m not, so it won’t – and in any event, I’d have to deduct points for the artist having also been in The Eagles and Ringo Starr & His All Starr Band, surely the least cool bands ever):
Now. Regular readers will know that I have deep-seated hatred of songs being appropriated for advertising purposes, as documented in my S.S.O.S. (Stop Spoiling Our Songs) series. For the avoidance of doubt, I’m with the late, great Bill Hicks on this one:
Here’s a tune which I’ve been meaning to post for a while, and which samples Hicks and explains my thoughts better than I ever could, and which I must credit my old mate Dum Dum (not his real name) for bringing into my life:
See, it’s bad enough when songs we love are appropriated to sell something, but surely it’s even worse when an act we love pops over to an overseas land in the hope that those back home will never find out what they’ve done – and I’m looking at you Bacon and Clooney – isn’t it?:
Mostly because Joey did it too:
But I digress, again.
Rigid’s next suggestion is this: “…or even Starship who built this city on sausage rolls.” Now, we all know what he is obliquely referring to, and that’s the first of the last two Christmas #1s here in the UK. In a week where Tory MPs voted down a motion which would have ensured that children from poor families don’t starve because of the various lockdown restrictions, I thought it probably best if I didn’t post a free link to a song which tried to help. Instead, here’s the (extremely unfunny) video (and yes, this got to #1 in the UK):
…and here’s the song they are referencing:
To be fair, Rigid does offer up a vastly superior song, the title of which references the same source:
So before we set off on a little journey of all the songs mentioning actual cities in their titles or their lyrics (and there’s lots of them), we’ll have a look at all of the suggestions – most of them are mine, admittedly – which feature the word City in the title or in the artiste name. But before we do that, let’s get all of the other ones mopped up.
Here’s the Devonian with, I think, my favourite explanation ever:
“A geographical link… not going off “Cities” though, but rather the fact that the bassist in Talking Heads was the esteemed (albeit not by David Byrne) Tina Weymouth. That got me wondering whether there are any other groups with bassists named after gentrified Dorset coastal settlements. But I couldn’t find any, so I had to settle for a couple of singers instead. Therefore I give you Shelly and Karen Poole and…”
“…which is great and you know it is really.”
Actually, I’m more of an ‘I Am, I Feel’ kinda guy, as it goes, but that’s enough about why I can’t go on public transport without a responsible adult in tow anymore.
“Whilst Devonian was struggling for Dorset-named bass players to link to Tina Weymouth,” pipes up The Great Gog, “I found myself thinking of a feature of said coast that is named in a song – namely the theme tune to children’s TV show Portland Bill (which must have been 20 years old when my kids watched it on satellite telly in the early 00’s).“
I can’t say this rang any bells with me at all, but I have managed to track down a copy of the writer of the theme tune in question, playing…well, it:
Next up is PhonicPat who, undeterred by suggesting the worst record last time out, has come up with a load of absolute bangers this time, starting with this, which kinda follows on given that it’s “made up of the rhythm section of Talking Heads” who just so happen to be husband and wife combo Chris Frantz (drums) and Tina Weymouth (bass and renowned gentrified Dorset coastal settlement):
Talking Heads “…tried to continue without Byrne and released the ‘No Talking Just Heads’ album” Pat continues, “featuring collaborations with Debbie Harry, Andy Partridge and Shaun Ryder amongst others therefore:”
And Pat isn’t finished there:
“[A] David Byrne/Talking Heads link” (as Byrne features as guest vocalist on this):
Now, there’s two things to say about that: firstly Byrne mentions New York at the start, and we’ll be coming on to that city in the fullness of time; and secondly these PhonicPat sponsored words: “…(along with saucy video)“.
In the name of research, strictly so that you don’t have to press play on this next video, you understand, I have watched this, several times, and can confirm that no matter how much you might slow it down or rewind and watch again, whoever had the job of censoring out the wobbly bits did a fine job. Still, best you approach with caution, eh?
Remind me in a bit to give you a related Pet Shop Boys fact, will you?
Since we seem to have landed on band-related suggestions, George is back again:
“From Talking Heads to the Talking Book album by Stevie Wonder, and the track:…”
And moving on to other suggestions about links to the band name we have Alyson from What’s It All About? who says: “We’ve had Dollar [last time out] so in the same vein can I suggest….”
Whoa there tiger! I need to explain the “in the same vein” bit, because Dollar should definitely not be bracketed with The Fizz so lightly. Oh no. For post-1980s fame The Fizz split into two factions: one containing original members Cheryl Baker, Mike Nolan and (sighs) Jay Aston, the other containing Bobby Gee and an almighty war broke out about who should use the name Bucks Fizz to promote their cruise ship wares. And amidst this row, up popped former member of Dollar and never member of the Fizz, David Van Day who, when he wasn’t trying to be the Lawrence Fox of his day and appear all outrageous by dumping his girlfriend live on Channel 5’s The Wright Stuff, elected to appropriate the name Bucks Fizz, go on a tour, sing a couple of their songs and trouser all the cash. The twat.
Anyway, here’s Alyson’s Fizz choice:
What I love about Alyson’s choice is that she could have picked the original of that, by The Romantics, but such is her devotion to ladies having their skirts ripped off as part of a Eurovision dance routine, she simply had to plump for a bit of Fizz. Kudos.
No idea what I’m banging on about? Here you go, complete with withering intro from the much missed Terry Wogan:
Genius pop music. And I mean that.
Alyson has some other suggestions linking to Talking Heads’ name, namely:
Almost time to set off on our tour of cities, have you got your packed lunch and your waterproof coat? Ok, I’ll stall for a bit with some frankly rather clever suggestions.
The source record this time features on Talking Heads’ Fear of Music album, which takes us into the dark territory of phobias. Or, as the Devonian puts it: “Cities is from the album Fear Of Music… which is a Phobia… which is a song by Flowered Up”
It sure is:
Which leads us neatly on to Hal’s suggestions: “Didn’t Cage the Elephant release an album called Melophobia?” he asks, rhetorically. Well, yes, yes they did. And in case you were wondering, Melophobia is the correct technical term for having a fear of music, so here’s something from the album of the same name:
I’ve always avoided them because, well, I thought (and still do) that they have a terrible name, but that’s not bad so maybe I need to reassess.
Anyway, Hal isn’t finished yet: “Which leads us to Phonophobia: The Second Coming by Extreme Noise Terror. Or perhaps not…”
Too late, you’ve said it now.
Phonophobia: The Second Coming is an album by Extreme Noise Terror, and this is one of the songs on it:
Peelie would be proud.
How do you follow that? With this:
Thank goodness for Rol from My Top Ten who kindly steps in to suggest this, which in his eyes “seems an obvious winner”
Frankly, if we’re going to mention bands with the word City in their name, I don’t think we can justifiably omit this lot:
“The other obvious one”, Rol continues undeterred, and I’ll let him carry on because I can’t quite work out where else to place this, “is to jump to Radiohead (as they took their name from a Talking Heads song) and Street Spirit (because there are lots of streets in cities…)
He’s not wrong, there are. I counted at least seven near where I live just the other day, and I think I may have missed some.
I hadn’t finished with bands with City in their names. This lot are definitely less renowned than Mr McKeown and the gang (Bay City Rollers, not Radiohead) and are named after 2000AD’s Judge Dredd comic strip. Play this one loud:
And so we move on to songs with the word City in the title (that aren’t called In the City). You know how until that last little spurt I’ve hardly suggested anything so far? Consider that ended. Eyes down and here we go with the almost entirely forgotten about:
…to an often overlooked gem:
…and the never to be forgotten:
A sort of clever one: this was released on City Rockers, a label synonymous with the electro-clash sound of the early 2000s:
And we shouldn’t overlook this brace of bangers:
…which almost inevitably leads us here:…
…which leads me to this spoof record, but it’s a spoof of a song which doesn’t have a city in it’s title, but I’m sure you’ll get it:
And finally, I was very surprised that absolutely nobody suggested anything from PJ Harvey’s magnificent Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea album, so I guess I’ll have to:
I’m stalling because it feels slightly disingenuous to be suggesting we go on a world tour just as so many cities around the world are locking down to prevent travel and the potential spreading of the Corona virus, so can I ask that you all don your face masks, smear yourselves in hand sanitiser like it’s goose fat before you attempt to swim the Channel, don’t stand so close to me and we’ll be off, safely.
But where to start? “Something from Gerry Rafferty’s very fine City To City album perhaps?” pipes up Rigid Digit again, which seems a perfectly good suggestion, and I’ve plumped, somewhat obviously, for the title track:
And it’s to Rigid Digit that we turn to yet again as we herald the start of The Chain World Tour which, given some places like my beloved Wales have gone into circuit-breaking lockdown today, I must say I feel a teensy bit guilty about, but, nevertheless, here we go.
Truly, there can only be one song to kick this off, and as Rigid quotes: “London, Paris, New York, Munich. Everybody talk about…:“
“I was beaten to M,” moans The Great Gog, “but other songs name-checking a number of cities that sprang to mind were…:”
Not forgetting, as Martin from New Amusements points out, a song which (apart from the Hang the DJ bit) perhaps most perfectly encapsulates where we are right now:
Ok, let’s start, with a whistle-stop tour of the UK. Here’s The Robster:
“I was going to suggest the wonderful Theme For Great Cities but Swiss Adam beat me to it! So I decided to think about songs ABOUT cities. Then I realised I’d be suggesting about 4 million songs and you’d hate me more than I’d hate myself! So in the end I plumped for one city. It was going to be Newport, but the only songs about us are parodies and parodies of parodies. So I chose our neighbours instead and came up with…:
I’m not sure why The Robster thinks this lot only do parodies. Funny songs, of course: it’s their stock in trade. I mean, sure this one is a parody, but it’s the only one I know which actually mentions The Mighty ‘Port in it’s title, and (sorry Rob) from the short time I lived there, seems wholly accurate to me:
Let’s head up to Birmingham next, and I’ll hand the reins back to Swiss Adam for a moment, for he is quoting lines from the source material to guide us to our next destination.
“Birmingham ‘lots of rich people’….” (although I think Byrne was probably referring to B’ham, Alabama.)
For those of us old enough to remember, it’s hard to forget when they fell foul of a Government clause of the 1981 Broadcasting Act which prohibited the broadcast of direct statements by representatives or supporters of 11 Irish political and paramilitary organisations. The restrictions were part of the Thatcher government’s desire to prevent Sinn Féin from employing the media for political advantage.
Yeh, I know. Dry subject.
What this meant in practical terms was that when, in 1987, they appeared on Friday Night Live , a Thames Television programme hosted by Ben Elton, they played Streets of Sorrow but the broadcaster cut to an ad break before they got to Birmingham Six.
Ridiculous as the rules were, a loop-hole meant that we were allowed to hear what Sinn Fein (the political arm of the IRA) had to say, but we could not hear them spoken by a member of the political party. Generally what this meant was the words were read by an actor with a plummy Home Counties accent, but the ludicrousness of the situation was highlighted here, on The Day Today:
This next song actually mentions bombing in Birmingham, although it means it in the “not going down to well at a gig” sense, rather than the more literal interpretation:
In these times of Tiers and Lockdown, I’m not sure we’ll get any better advice than to ‘start drinking til we’re blind’ (again, metaphorically of course – I don’t want any of us to end up in one of those adverts asking people to sponsor a puppy); I know it’s what has got me through writing this post, for a start.
“This mentions Birmingham, Alabama”, offers PhonicPat, and he’s not wrong, it does:
But we’re not quite ready to go trans-Atlantic, because here’s The Robster again:
“I have another one, this time referring to my Devon roots. The nearest city to where I grew up was Exeter – so:”
What I love about IDLES, apart from their records, is that they’re so bloody angry about everything, even their name is in capital letters like they’re shouting that too.
Catchphrase time! Well, if you’re having that, then I’m having this, a song about the nearest city to where I grew up, but where IDLES are VERY ANGRY! about how shit Exeter is, The Long Blondes are just a wee bit disappointed with how dull Peterborough is:
Staying in the UK, here’s Stevie from Charity Chic Music who takes us (much) further Up North:
“David Byrne was born in Scotland – Dumbarton to be precise. So the link is obviously:”
…which not only gets added to the ever-growing pile marked: ‘Must Investigate Further’, it also allows me to include this, which the title obviously references:
Since that also mentions Berlin, we may as well pop over to Europe, y’know, whilst we still can, without having to incorporate a two-week stay in a car park in Kent. Here’s another suggestion from Martin:
Well, this all seems to have got rather gloomy rather quickly. But I have an idea! Let’s pop over to the former capital of Turkey to liven things up a bit:
It became very apparent as I was sifting through the suggestions that there were two cities which featured more than any other, so, after a spot of self-isolation, we’ll pop back to the one in the UK: That London. And first up is another suggestion from Phonic Pat which takes us on a nice little (if expensive) tour of the city:
Here’s Swiss Adam again, quoting lines from the source record:
“…a small city, dark in the day time…”
…and suggesting this absolute shoe-in:
And here’s Martin again with two further capital suggestions:
“For when one is tired of London, one is tired of life, right?” adds Martin. Try telling Alan that:
Obligatory Alan Partridge clip? Tick!
One more from Martin, “…because I love them so…” (me too, mate, me too):
Sticking with Martin’s stream of suggestions, let’s hop over to the other city which seems to be mentioned in song titles more than any other:
“Decidedly not a cover of Ol’ Blue Eyes”, Martin adds. Well no: there’s a more liberal use of the F-word than Sinatra ever committed to record for a start. Plus, without wishing to be pedantic (he says as he is about to do just that), the Sinatra song Martin refers to is actually called Theme from New York, New York, so there was never any real danger of confusion. This next one though, less so:
That’s what being brought up listening to Radio 2 does for you: you remember records like that.
You won’t be surprised to read that I’ve got loads of these, the next of which is by someone who gets a bad rap for being a bit square (I think that’s it; I certainly don’t recall him having done anything unmentionable, apart from Uptown Girl of course), but I think he’s written some absolute corkers, and this is one of them:
New York, here we are, and here’s Odyssey to tell us we fit right in:
When The Strokes released their wonderful and never-bettered debut album Is This It? in 2001 (God, that makes me feel old), there was a difference between the UK and the US release, for the UK release included this, presumably omitted from the US release because it probably wasn’t considered to sit well so close in the wake of 9/11:
Back in time now, to the first record I ever bought, sort of. You can read about that here but in case you can’t be bothered (and if you’ve got this far I can’t blame you for feeling a bit wiped out) here it is:
Remember about seven hours ago, just after The BPA tune, I asked you to remind me to give you a Pet Shop Boys factoid? Well, the time is now: before he worked for Smash Hits magazine (my gateway drug to pop music before I grew up/discovered the NME) Neil Tennant used to work for Marvel Comics, editing out any hint of nipple from the cartoons contained within the pages of the heralded comic book. And that’s not even as funny as the rumour Stuart Maconie made up about him being a fully qualified Rugby League referee.
Anyway, here’s the Pet Shop Boys:
Hold up, Swiss is back with his quoting lyrics and suggesting songs ways:
“Memphis: ‘home of Elvis and the ancient Greeks’”
Leading him here:
And if you’re going to mention Memphis, you either have to include something by a certain Mr Presley (not Reg), or make a joke about being dead on a toilet eating a burger, or post this:
Funnily enough, Mr Simon is going in the opposite direction to Ian Hunter and the Mott the Hoople crew, as suggested by Phonic Pat:
And here’s a group who are considering a move to a completely different part of the US of A:
But as we all know, there’s only one place in America that one should consider moving to:
And that’s where I intended to sign off, were it not for one final suggestion from Martin:
“Oh, and can I add Vegas by Sleeper, just because… well, okay, just because of Louise Wener, really.”
Of course you can: if it doesn’t get cancelled as opposed to being forever rescheduled, I’ll be going to see them perform their debut album Smart, sometime, along with this morning’s postees The Bluetones doing the same with their debut album Expecting to Fly:
And that’s yer lot, except to reveal the actual next record in the actual Chain, which nobody suggested.
Here’s the link: “Talking Heads had a female bassist. So did…“
Which just leaves me to ask for your suggestions for songs which link to 1979 by The Smashing Pumpkins, to be submitted via either the Comments function on this page, or if you prefer anonymity that you ultimately won’t be afforded, by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
When I last sounded off, one of the many topics was students and the utter fiasco which was their A-Level results, so let’s pick up there.
Now, this may come as a shock to many of you, but what you achieve at A-Level pretty much decides what happens next for you. Do badly: start looking for a job.But do well and you can start thinking about what university offer you want to accept, to continue your education.
So before I go any further, congratulations to all who achieved sufficiently impressive grades, despite the interference of Gavin Williamson and his blessed algorithms.
I don’t think this will come as much of a surprise to many, but what happens next is that those who have achieved the required grades travel to live at and attend the university they had been accepted by.
What actually happened next was also no surprise: a spike in those away from home for the first time, now diagnosed with Covid and impelled to self-isolate.
I have a lot of sympathy for the students here; they had been told that they were of an age-group unlikely to be susceptible to virus, and were happily told to pack themselves off to college to enjoy themselves. There has been much talk of “The University Experience” and what that means: you live away from home for the first time, you study but you also meet lots of new people from different parts of the country. You bond, you may go on to party with them, and if you’re very lucky, you might sleep with at least one of them.
There was no need for them to leave home at all: the lectures could have been engaged in at home online, rather than having the students leave home and then be confined to their rooms. So let’s be clear: these students are not attending lectures: because of the ongoing crisis, it’s all being done online, via Teams or Zoom, all of which could have been done from the comfort of their own homes.
Try telling me, in those exact same circumstances, if it were you then you wouldn’t try to meet up with people, and I call bullshit.
This was, of course, not the Goverment’s fault. Nosireebob. Here’s Dido Harding, and just to fill you in on her qualifications: Diana Mary “Dido” Harding, Baroness Harding of Winscombe is a British Conservative Party businesswoman who served as chairwoman of NHS Improvement since 2017, current head of the Test and Trace programme, and acting Chair of the National Institute for Health Protection since 2020.
She is also the former chief executive of the TalkTalk Group where she faced calls for her to resign after a cyber attack revealed the details of 4 million customers. A member of the Conservative Party, she’s married to Conservative Party MP John Penrose, and is a friend of former Prime Minister David Cameron. Dido was appointed as a Member of the House of Lords by Cameron in 2014 and she holds a board position at the Jockey Club, which is responsible for several major horse-racing events including the Cheltenham Festival. (That’s the same Cheltenham Festival which was allowed to take place this year, despite the obvious Covid risks it presented.)
Dido – head of Track and Trace, remember – said “I don’t think anybody was expecting, to see the real sizable increase in demand that we’ve seen over the last few weeks, so none of the modelling was expecting that, and that’s why we all need to think really hard about how we prioritise the use of these tests.”
No, Dido. Nobody could possibly have predicted that students would go to University at the start of term in September. Absolutely unforeseeable.
Think about this too: most of the people who had been helping with testing over the summer worked for universities, and so when they returned to their full-time jobs, said testing positions were left vacant.
You’ll be shocked to learn the Government hadn’t thought of this and, like Roy Hodgson as England Manager (sorry for the comparison, Roy) had no back-up plan, no Plan B. Just surprise: suddenly we have less people to administer the tests at exactly the time where we’re encouraging more people to get tested. This, of course, could not have been predicted.
Which leads us to the situation where people who needed to have a Covid test suddenly found that they were instructed to drive hundreds of miles to the nearest appointment. That’s travelling at Cummings-grade level.
See, the thing one thing everybody agrees on (now) is that keeping the virus in check relies on having a fully working Track and Trace system. The Independent published this handy, cut-out-and-keep chronology of our dabbling with the idea of tracking and tracing:
‘January 2020 – deadly pandemic breaks out.
February 2020 – World Health Organisation issues three word advice: “Test. Test. Test.”
UK’s deputy chief medical officer Jenny Harries responds by saying: “There comes a stage in a pandemic where testing is not an appropriate intervention.”
March 2020 – Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, advises people with coronavirus symptoms to self-isolate at home and don’t get tested.
April 2020 – Matt Hancock decides testing is in fact important. Launches drive to “100,000-tests-a-day” target.
May 2020 – Matt Hancock announces his own success in reaching his 100,000-a-day target, which turns out to have been through putting 35,000 tests in the post the previous day.
Dido Harding is put in charge of test and trace programme. Boris Johnson promises it will be “world-beating”.
July 2020 – government starts bribing people to go to pubs and restaurants, and threatening people with redundancy if they don’t go back to the office.
August 2020 – infection rate begins to soar. People going to pubs are blamed.
September 2020 – schools reopen. Infection rates rise to more than 4,000 a day. The “world-beating” test and trace system is running at full capacity. Parents in London with coughing children are advised to drive them to Inverness if they want a test. If they don’t get a test, the child can’t go to school and the parents can’t go to work.
Dido Harding tells a House of Commons select committee: “I don’t think anybody was expecting to see the really sizeable increase in demand that we’ve seen over the course of the last few weeks.”
Harding continued to explain that she had no real idea how many people were trying and failing to get a test. The system capacity is 250,000 a day. The only way to know how oversubscribed it is by measuring “how many people are visiting the website and calling the number”.
She did acknowledge that there would be some “double counting” involved, which indeed there would be, as anyone who has ever tried to use a website or call a phone line that is not capable of coping with the demands placed on it will testify. “Between the years 2011 and 2019, for example (The Independent journalist writes), “I would estimate that I personally represent over a quarter of a million people attempting to buy a ticket for the Glastonbury Festival. One would hope a “world-beating” test and trace system would have rather more robust metrics in place for gauging how many people in the country think they’ve got coronavirus.”
Look, I know I’m a raving Leftie, but I do not dare to claim that things would necessarily have been any better had Labour won the last election, especially when you think about who would have been in charge if “we” had won. But Jesus wept, I’d like to think there would be at least an element of transparency, of learning from mistakes, which is not what we’re seeing now.
For a start, don’t be fooled by Conservative MPs referring to what we do have as “NHS Track and Trace”. The implication in them referring to it as such is that the NHS is at the heart of it, when in actual fact it has knack all to do with the the NHS.
In fact, it is an outsourced service provided to the NHS. The contact tracers are employed by Serco, who were paid £108 million for the first phase of the work, up to late August. The call centre is operated by American specialists Sitel, who were paid £84m for a similar period.
Money well earned.
So why do Conservative MPs continue to refer to it as NHS Track and Trace? Call me a cynic, but I think it’s because they want you to believe, when this is all finally over and done with, that it was the NHS that failed the nation, rather than one or any number of the privately owned firms who are actually culpable, and to whom our most precious asset will doubtless be sold off.
Who, when reading this and seeing the name Serco did not feel their heart sag? Oh that lot, we thought. For Serco have a bit of a reputation: in July 2019, a fine of £19.2m was imposed on them for fraud and false accounting over its electronic tagging service for the Ministry of Justice. This is where they were found to have charged us – the British taxpayer – for tagging a number of prisoners temporarily and legitimately released from prison, whom they hadn’t tagged at all. The company was also ordered to pay the Serious Fraud Office’s investigative costs of £3.7 million.
And what do we do with companies who have failed to adhere to the very basic terms of a contract? Give them another one, that’s what.
Incidentally, Serco have also been accused of an extensive cover-up over sexual abuse of immigrants at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre in Bedfordshire, and, together with its consortium partners, failing to develop a strategy for managing Higher Active radioactive Waste at the Atomic Weapons Establishment. I think that’s a Full House, isn’t it?
So, Serco are exactly the sort of people one would expect to have been awarded such a lucrative and important contract as the Track and Trace one. I could go on about how these contracts, and many others, which have wasted millions, if not billions, of pounds since Covid kicked in, were awarded without going through the proper tender process and just so happened to be awarded to companies which are owned by, or who have shareholders who are Conservative MPs or their main fund providers, but you’re all smart cookies. You can look it up.
And get this: the government backed Track and Trace app, which you’ve doubtless seen advertised this week, encouraging us to download it and help beat the virus, isn’t actually compatible with Covid tests done by the NHS.
World-beating, my arse.
Let me just say this: there are parallels to be drawn between the money which has been made by Tory benefactors since Covid, and those that a record company makes when a star on their books dies:
At the time of writing, the Goverment has wasted £3,895,556,000 since March. This includes unsafe testing kits; face masks that don’t work; broken tracing systems; useless antibody tests; contracts to sweet manufacturers and dormant companies with no employees, to provide PPE that, well who’d have thunk it, never arrived.
Three words: Magic. Money. Tree.
At the end of July 2020, debt was £2,004 billion, £227.6 billion more than at the same point last year. Just remember that next time Labour is painted as the profligate party.
Yeh, yeh…these are unprecedented times of national crisis…I get that. Extra money had to be spent. Agreed. But that should not be seen as an opportunity to line the pockets of your already stinking-rich mates.
Meanwhile, as various areas – the North East, the North East, South Wales (fuck it, anywhere but London) – saw spikes in those who were diagnosed with Covid, the Government implemented regional restrictions in an attempt to curb the rise. The problem here was that nobody in Government seemed to know exactly what the rules were from one area to the next: when questioned junior minister Gillian Keegan was unable to explain what the rules were in the North East. You can maybe excuse her for not being all over the detail (were she not being interviewed on a local radio programme in one of the areas in question), but surely one could expect the person who had imposed, or at the very least sanctioned, said measures to be all over it like the proverbial tramp on chips, no?
No. For later the same day, our PM when asked got it wrong too, prompting this hastily written (by someone else) Tweet:
Fair play for admitting he got it wrong, but via the medium of Twitter is hardly the way to announce it, is it? He may as well have hidden in another fridge. Get out in front of the press again, man. I brought eggs.
And “Misspoke”…? Miss-speaking is when you accidentally refer to someone as Mrs rather than Miss. This was not him miss-speaking, this was him getting it wrong. Politician-speak, see: where the words “I’m sorry” are followed by the word “if…”; where you have to make it seem like you’ve said what is expected or anticipated, but where you leave yourself enough wriggle-room to amend, backtrack, clarify or denounce as deemed necessary later on.
This is where the whole matter of trust comes into play. Now, more than ever, it is essential that the people of the UK trust and believe in those who rule over us, and yet what we constantly get is the breaking of rules we’re supposed to adhere to, and the flim-flam justification for doing so, followed by errors and cover-ups. I’m not necessarily advocating another nationwide lockdown, but what I am asking for is for consistency. Is that too much to ask?
An example: new rules state that pubs and clubs must now shut at 10:00 pm. Putting aside the implied idiocy of thinking that the Covid virus is only active from 10:01 pm, and the actual idiocy of having all pubs turf people out at exactly the same time, to travel home on public transport where social distancing is simply not possible, what was not widely advertised was that one particular set of bars were exempt from the rule: those located in the House of Commons.
In the meantime, regional spikes – and we should really start calling it what it really is now: the second wave – led to our Government asking us all to work from home where possible, when only a matter of weeks ago they were encouraging us to go back to our offices to work, under the pretence that local sandwich businesses were struggling. Let’s call that what it was too, whilst we’re at it: it’s no coincidence that the people who were losing out on rent for vacant office buildings just so happened to also be major contributors to the Conservative coffers. And we can’t have those billionaires being out of pocket, now can we?
These spikes are, apparently, all our fault: we love freedom “too much” and we “don’t like being told what to do”. I call bullshit once again. There may be small pockets of Covid deniers in the country, or those who consider wearing face masks to protect ourselves and others is either a fallacy or an infringement on our civil liberties, but they are very much in the minority.
The majority of us just want to get through this and will do whatever it takes to do so.
What’s needed here is clear and consistent messaging, and (and I can’t believe I’m about to type these words) strong and stable leadership.
What we’re getting is the absolute opposite.
For once, I agree with Phil and the boys:
In non-Covid related news, it was announced that Brexit – ah, Brexit! Remember those heady days when this was all we had to worry about? – and the additonal paperwork which every vehicle will need to have (and have checked) will cause queues of approximately 7000 lorries per day at channel ports. Give or take, that’s 700 miles of tailbacks. And the solution? More staff, presumably. But no: a new internal border in Kent. Genius. Say what you like about Boris’ “oven-ready” deal: we never expected it to lead to the annexing of Kent.
Oh, and the software needed to control the borders won’t be ready until May 2021, months after it’s needed.
And the same applies for the border with Northern Ireland he assured us wasn’t going to happen.
But it’s okay, Boris has a master-plan: all we have to do is pass new legislation which allows us to renege on the Withdrawal Agreement he signed with the EU less than a year ago – which, for those of you with short memories, was forced through Parliament in record time because, it was argued, there was no need to examine the detail of the agreement. “We would never have agreed to this had we bothered to read it first time around” the likes of Ian Duncan Smith exclaimed. (Still no sign of Mark Francois. Funny, that)
And our Premier agreed – and he claims to have written the fecking thing – hence the Internal Market Bill, which has got through two readings in the House of Commons, and which – amongst other things, such as grabbing power back from our devolved nations, and throwing the Good Friday Agreement out the window, so it’ll be a big 70s welcome back to sectarian violence in Ireland – permits us to renege on the Withdrawal Agreement, all of which is of course, in breach of international law.
Here’s Ed Miliband, standing in for Labour Leader Kier Starmer when he was self-isolating, still sounding like an Aardman Animations character, but giving Johnson a proper what-for at PMQs:
If only he could have managed to eat a bacon sandwich properly.
But, of course, it is the EU who are being painted as the unreasonable ones now. Does anyone actually buy that? How outrageous that they might insist on us sticking to an agreement we agreed to only last year, the manipulative bastards.
What this does, of course, is send out a very clear message to all of those countries with whom we are currently negotiating new trade deals (to replace the perfectly good one we had via the EU): Britain can’t be trusted.
Who haven’t I mentioned yet?
You know it: Home Secretary, Priti Patel.
Obsessed with her desire to send any asylum seekers (she continues to call them illegal immigrants, even though they are not) elsewhere, this week two proposed plans were leaked to the press. The first was that we should send them all to the Ascension Islands (hello Australia! Does this sound familiar?), the second was that we should contain them on boats moored off-shore whilst their applications were considered.
Just to clarify the hard-line Patel allegedly proposed: we remove them from the dangerous craft on which they had paddled their way here and either relocate them to an isolated volcanic island, about 1,600 kilometres from the coast of Africa and 2,250 kilometres from the coast of Brazil, or we put them in a much bigger and safer ship than they had been used to thus far.
Or – and this may seem radical – maybe, since they’ve done nothing wrong, we could treat them like humans and let them in whilst their applications are processed. maybe even let them work a little, pay their taxes and National Insurance contributions, to make up at least some of the money the Government seems determined to – and I quote – “spaff up the walls” on Covid and Brexit.
I heard a government minister – sadly, I didn’t catch his name – being interviewed and asked whether these suggestions were true. His answer was that he ‘wouldn’t comment on leaks’. Which is Politician Speak for “Yes, it’s true, but it’s a bit embarrassing so I’d rather you didn’t press me on this.”
One wonders just how persuasive Patel is for these nonsense ideas to be even considered, let alone leaked. With apologies to you all, not least to The Robster for the tarring of a great record with debase connotations:
And don’t even get me started on the US elections, which given the developments over the last 24 hours, I’m steering clear of. I’d hate to speak ill of the dead (until they’re actually dead, and then it’s fair game. Fingers crossed!).