Same Title, Different Song

Did you ever have one of those conversations where you suddenly felt very old?

Let me give you an example.

Shortly after I started working for an insurance company in Cardiff, about 20 years ago now, I found myself as an Acting Team Leader on the Teleclaims section; “Acting” because the actual Team Leader had gone on long term sick, and they didn’t want to actually promote me in her absence because that would have meant paying me more.

The Teleclaims section was the first point of contact should you ever need to make a claim. Or, if you wanted to find out what was going on with your claim. In the latter case, it was an unwritten rule that you should never bother the person actually dealing with the claim. I was rather good at this; I’d have a quick read of the file whilst the caller was on hold, then call the handler, ask them if I was right about where I thought the claim was at, then reassure them I wasn’t going to put the caller through, I’d get rid of them myself. 9 times out of 10  I’d be successful, and I quickly got myself a reputation as “the bloke who never makes handlers talk to customers.” My popularity burgeoned.

It was for this reason, I think, that I found the title of Acting Team Leader foisted upon me. But now my job had changed; now I spent most of my time shouting at people to answer the phones rather than actually answering them myself, or, quite often, taking complaint calls and politely explaining to the caller why they were wrong.

See, I’m not really management material. But on the occasions when I’ve found myself in vaguely managerial positions throughout my working life, I’ve been a firm believer in leading by example. Don’t ask others to do things you aren’t prepared to do yourself, is my motto. In fact, one job I did ended rather abruptly, shortly after I confronted a manager who had told me to “Do as I say, not as I do,” and I told him he was a twat.

So when I was an Assistant Supervisor at Boots (check me out with all my not-quite-boss credentials), I felt awkward telling other people slightly further down the food chain than I to jump on the tills when it was busy, so I’d often do it myself. Then there could be no arguments when I did tell someone to do it. Plus, I got to have a nice sit down.

Anyway, back to the insurance company. It’s busy, and I decide to answer a few calls, one of which involves a policyholder whose name is Paul Newman.

Call completed, I, of course, cannot resist making a comment about having just spoken to Paul Newman to the folks around me. Not a particularly funny comment, I’ll grant you (although that was definitely the intent) but one which I thought would gain a reaction from somebody.

Instead, I was met with blank looks.

“Y’know. Paul Newman.”

More blank looks.

“The actor. The very famous actor,” I semi-pleaded.

A bale of hay blows through.

“Makes salad dressing…..?” I offered.

A wave of recognition.

And that’s how you know when you’re getting old. When somebody you know for doing the main thing they’re famous for is known by young people for doing something less significant. I now refer to it as “having a Paul Newman moment.”

To apply this to a musical setting: a few years later, I’m still working for the same company, but I’ve progressed. I now deal with potentially expensive claims, where people (say that) they’ve been injured in an accident with someone we insure. I find myself sitting next to a lad who has been transferred from a different office. Usual in-between work banter occurs, and it transpires we have a lot in common in terms of musical taste. (Later nights out would reveal that he also rather liked taking pills; needless to say, we got on very well. Also needless to say, for the very same reason, I’m not going to mention his real name.)

Steve. Let’s call him Steve.

In one of our we-really-should-be-working-but-nobody’s-checking-what-we’re-doing chats, Steve revealed that he really liked The Automatic, a somewhat perfunctory Welsh indie band, best remembered for their single Monster. Credit where credit’s due, though: our conversation took place before they’d had any hits (if indeed their hit count extends into plurals). But he had one gripe with the band: he hated the additional vocals which Alex Pennie often provided, finding them obtrusive and annoying.

“A bit like Einar from The Sugarcubes, then?” I offered.

Cue the blank looks from “Steve”.

“You know. Einar. From the Sugarcubes.”

More blank looks.

“Used to pop up in the middle of every Sugarcubes song, and just start shouting pseudo-avant garde nonsense?”

Is it me, or is it getting warm in here?

Turns out, in musical terms, you know you’re old when you know the name of somebody in The Sugarcubes who wasn’t Bjork. And some of their records.

Like this one:

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The Sugarcubes – Hit

And, making a second appearance in as many posts, here’s a different song with the same title:

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The Wannadies – Hit

And just to tie things up neatly, here’s a song by The Automatic which isn’t Monster and which isn’t the best example of a song which features Pennie’s irritating backing vocals. It is, however, a song about a sandwich shop in Cardiff, and I rather like it for that at least: R-1056600-1188654629_jpeg

The Automatic – Raoul

More soon (football permitting).

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Friday Night Music Club

Evening all.

Just so you know, this week’s selection comes with one of those Parental Guidance stickers right across it.

Also, I’m writing this with the Wales v France match on the TV in the background, so if this is posted a little later than usual, you’ll know why.

Let’s get straight to it; we’ll pick up where we left off last week and a song that in all honesty should be the theme tune to this thread:

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132. St Etienne – Join Our Club

Released in 1992, as you can see as a double A-side with “People get Real”, which the band had wanted to release as a single in its own right, but met opposition from their record label, Heavenly. So, they set about creating the most commercial record they could, and “Join Our Club” was the result. This was the second single to feature Sarah Cracknell, after founder members Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs had ditched the idea of using a variety of lead singers – a concept which features (and works, but very little that St Etienne produces doesn’t) heavily on their debut album “Foxbase Alpha”, but which the duo decided against once they had worked with La Cracknell.

Next, to New Young Pony Cub (or NYPC as they are apparently now known), and this oft-over-looked single from their second album:

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133. New Young Pony Club – We Want To

New Young Pony Club are one of those bands that don’t really ever seem to have quite broken through, despite supporting Lily Allen on an early tour, and also claiming a spot on the 2007 NME Indie Rave Tour, along with the likes of CSS, The Sunshine Underground, and Klaxons. I suspect that CSS and Klaxons, indie-press darlings that they were at the time, probably gained most of the attention on that tour.

An ex-flatmate of mine told me once that the next band had won some TV talent show or another – suffice it to say it was The X Factor – but since he also once tried to convince me that every song title on Andrew W.K.’s “I Get Wet” album has the word “Party” in it, and since his favourite groups were Kasabian and Mumford & Sons, and since he once came home telling me he’d just heard the most awesome Britpop band ever (he was talking about Longpigs, who you know, are alright and of course gave us Richard Hawley, but…), and since he used to eat Doritos whilst sitting on the toilet, I am, frankly, sceptical. If he’s right about any of those points (particularly the Doritos bit), I’m sure one of you will enlighten me.

Anyway, here’s:

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134. Fangs – S.I.C.K.O.

And well, that leads me rather nicely onto this:

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135. The Charlatans – Weirdo

When you think about it, it’s a miracle that The Charlatans are still going, let alone that they’ve been one of the most consistent UK singles bands for the past twenty-going-on-thirty years; when they started out they were considered little more than Madchester wannabes (a tag which, I’m pleased to say, they’ve consistently proved wrong on many times since, having outlived all of the main scene protagonists. No need for The Charlatans to reform, nosireebob. And no seven year wait for a second album, either) and they’ve constantly been beset with drama and tragedy. In 1992, original keyboard player Rob Collins managed to get himself mixed up in an armed robbery being committed by a friend, and unwittingly ended up being his getaway driver. He ended up getting a four month stretch at Her Majesty’s Pleasure for that. Rob’s car related bad luck didn’t end there though: he was killed in a car crash in 1996. In 2013, drummer Jon Brookes died from a brain tumour that had been diagnosed in 2010.

But The Charlatans always seem to bounce back, and of all the varied and wonderful singles they’ve released, “Weirdo” is probably my favourite, not least because the 12″ single contains the US version of “Sproston Green” which they always, but always, end their live sets with.

Anyway, since we seem to have drifted into the territory of songs with vaguely insulting titles, we may as well have the king of such things:

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136. Goldie Lookin’ Chain – Your Mother’s Got A Penis

You have to love ’em, don’t ya?

Well, we’re now into Parental Guidance time, so please only continue if you are above the age of 18 and have the bill-payer’s permission. Or something.

Have they all gone? Good, then I’ll continue.

A song now that I mentioned in passing on these pages some time ago:

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137. Fatboy Slim – Star 69

…and which I’m therefore not going to dwell on any further here. It just fits here, okay?

Many years ago, when I was working as a “chef” in a motorway service station restaurant, I bunked off one Sunday to spend the day with my friend Richard, who had invited me and a few others round for a day of roast dinner, drinking and watching films. The only film I can recall that we actually watched that day was “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” starring Whoopi Goldberg. I remember nothing about the plot.

So why am I mentioning this now, I hear you wonder? Well, the only thing that I do remember is Richard commenting that “Nobody swears like Whoopi swears”. That may have been true in 1986, but no longer I fear. I say this not in any kind of “Kids of today, eh?” rhetoric, but because…well…here’s Peaches:

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138. Peaches – Fuck The Pain Away

Saucy.

And speaking of sauce, no selection of rudeness would be complete without a nod in the direction of the Purple One:

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139. Prince – Sexy M.F.

Much as Fatboy knew that releasing a single with the words “What the Fuck” repeated quite a few times was unlikely to attract much airplay and so tucked it away as a AA-side, Prince knew to abbreviate his title and provide an edited version for radio use.

A change of pace now. Just as bands often punctuate their live sets with slower songs to give the audience a chance to get their breath back, so does Friday Night Music Club, and the moment has arrived where I get to do one of the things I love to do most these days: have a good sit down.

Still room for some abbreviated swears though.

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140. John Grant – GMF

And whilst we’re having a few moments of quiet cursing, here’s eels, who aren’t afraid to dispense with the abbreviations:

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141. eels – It’s A Motherfucker

Many years ago, I had a (now ex) friend round at my place once when I happened to play “Gorecki” by Lamb. If you don’t know the song, it’s a quite, quite beautiful, fragile thing, not a million miles away from Massive Attack’s “Teardrop”, neither of which would be out of place in my “Late Night Stargazing” thread (and which will feature there soonish, once I stop thinking of songs I’d rather post there). Anyway, she had never heard it before, and made me play it another two or three times. As she loved it so much, I did what I often do when someone tells me they like a song I’ve played them: I made her a mix CD with it on.

She was very grateful. Or rather, she would have been had I not, in her words, “totally ruined it” by placing this song immediately afterwards:

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142. Tenacious D – Fuck Her Gently

I am 46 and single. That may go some way to explaining why.

It seems appropriate, then, that I post this next: a band that I’m quite simply staggered to see I’ve not posted anything by here before. This is something I shall have to rectify immediately:

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143. Teenage Fanclub – Some People Try to Fuck With You

I went to see The Fannies (see? even their nickname is rude) in Bristol about ten years ago, when they were promoting their greatest hits album “Four Thousand Seven Hundred and Sixty-Six Seconds – A Short Cut to Teenage Fanclub”, and I took the opportunity to purchase some official merchandise, namely a t-shirt bearing the band’s moniker upon on it. I have subsequently learned that wearing such a t-shirt gains you some disapproving looks from people who are unaware of the band’s existence. I no longer wear it outside.

It’s not often that I post a Number One single on these pages, but here is one such occasion:

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144. Cee Lo Green – Fuck You

Of course, Cee Lo had to change the lyrics to “Forget You” in order that the single might attract any airplay, but we’re having none of that cleaned-up-version nonsense here tonight.

Now to something a lot less well known, which is a shame as it’s rather fine:

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145. The Bird and The Bee – Fucking Boyfriend

(Apologies if I seem to be rattling through these now. It’s because I am. Got a bit too engrossed in the rugby, see).

So, finally, the closing track from their first album “Life’s Too Good”, an album which properly introduced us to the wonderfully bonkers Bjork (though the Festive Fifty-topping “Birthday” had seriously whetted our appetites). This is one of the few songs in their canon not to include Einar butting in with an incoherent rant, a practice which always came perilously close to spoiling their songs in my book. Almost, but not close enough.

I was once discussing Welsh popsters The Automatic with a work colleague, who bemoaned the presence of Alex Pennie on their early records (Y’know, when they were kinda famous); he hated his vocal style and found him intrusive.

“Ah,” I said, nodding sagely “like Einar from The Sugarcubes.”

He looked at me blankly.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

I have rarely felt older.

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146. The Sugarcubes – Fucking In Rhythm And Sorrow

That’ll do you for tonight.

More soon.