Obligatory Eurovision Post

Yes, it’s that time of year again when, to quote Hel’s wedding speech, I buy a bargain bucket of KFC, drink pints of White Russians, and sit in my pyjamas lounge wear watching the rest of Europe make jolly entertaining, if awful, records before they vote the UK into oblivion and beyond. Again.

(I will also be following along on Twitter, which, if you’ve never done before I can heartily recommend: imagine everyone in the world making jokes about the same thing at the same time. It’s great fun!)

Unfortunately, Russia doesn’t compete in this, or we might not find ourselves bottom in the popularity stakes at the end of the night yet again, once the impenetrable voting process has completed.

Similarly, Ukraine is tipped to win, not because of the quality of their entry, but as a show of solidarity against them pesky Ruskies.

And that’s fine by me; since former Eurovision coverage for the UK God Terry Wogan sadly passed away, it’s nice to have some constants, even if it is the UK coming last or as close to last as to make no real difference.

There’s also the nod that current host Graham Norton always gives to his predecessor: “For those who aren’t aware song number nine is famous because Sir Terry always warned me not to have anything to drink until that point. During song number nine this year…[as always] I will be encouraging everyone to raise a glass.”

So what to post this year, to mark the evening? Well, I could go for the obvious and post the fictional entry by Father Ted, as I did back here; or, not for the first time, post what is to my mind The Greatest Song to Enter But Not Win Eurovision (also here – same link, though I could have chosen one of many other times it’s featured here), but I thought perhaps this year I should feature a different old UK entry I really liked at the time.

I first became aware of the Eurovision Song Contest in 1976, when the UK entry Save Your Kisses for Me by Brotherhood of Man stormed to victory. I remember Lynsey de Paul & Mike Moran’s entry the following year, Rock Bottom, and loved them both at the time, blissfully unaware of the kitsch points I was inadvertently accruing.

But it wasn’t until the early 1980s that I was properly hooked and let’s be honest, it was the skirt ripping antics of Bucks Fizz which caught my attention (along with a catchy as hell tune which not only went and won the ruddy thing, but had me, as I have mentioned before, filling up a C90 cassette tape with the same song, taped from the radio whenever it came on and I was close enough to press Play and Record at the same time).

Indeed, the early 1980s was a period rich with great (in context) UK entries; Bucks Fizz in 1981; The Greatest Song to Enter But Not Win Eurovision (Bardo) in 1982, Belle and the Devotions in 1984.

Weirdly, I have no recollection of 1983’s entry, Sweet Dreams performing I’m Never Giving Up. I think I must have shunned this as being just a bit two derivative of the entries from the previous two years: where the Fizz had two guys and two girls, and where Bardo had just a girl and a guy, Sweet Dreams had one guy and two girls. Where The Fizz had their frankly thrilling skirt-ripping dance routine, Sweet Dreams had some bar-stools and girls in aerobics-workout headbands. And the guy from Sweet Dreams appeared to be some weird morphing of the Fizz’s Bobby Gee and Mike Nolan (and no, I didn’t have to look them up to check their names).

I have looked Sweet Dreams up when researching this post though (yes, again, it does happen), and listening to it now I’m kinda surprised I didn’t like it at the time, although it is very clear whoever was selecting our entrants were merely looking to recreate the success of Bucks Fizz.

Have a look for yourself:

I mean, it’s a travesty that that finished higher than Bardo did the year before.

By the way, I was even more surprised to learn that in 1979 our entry was by none other than Black Lace, they of Agadoo fame. Needless to say, I have not investigated further. Even my dubious taste has limits.

And so to 1984, and our entry, Love Games by Belle and The Devotions. I’ll be honest, although I really liked it at the time, it probably wouldn’t be getting a mention here were it not for a TV show I stumbled across the other day.

Flicking through the channels, trying to find something to watch before I could put off bedtime no longer, I found one of those “…When (Some TV show format) Went Horribly Wrong” shows, and with one eye on tonight’s activities, those brackets were filled with the word ‘Eurovision’.

Now, other than some shonky links and piss-poor performances – I’m looking at you, Jemini, with your off-key delivery and your guy with a Conference League footballer’s haircut:

…I wasn’t particularly aware of any controversy surrounding the UK’s entry from 1984 until I watched this show, and they pointed out that Belle and her Devotions’ performance on the night was met with boos at its conclusion:

Online, the major theory for this was that the song was more than just evocative of the Motown sound, it was a downright rip off of The Supremes’ Baby Love. Judge for yourself:

The Supremes – Baby Love

and

Belle And The Devotions – Love Games

I mean, it’s similar stylistically, an obvious Motown homage, but the same as…? I don’t think so.

But there was a further reason: apparently it emerged during rehearsals that a backing trio, hidden off-camera, were doing the majority of the backing singing, while the microphones of Devotions Sofeld and James were not even switched on. Which may well explain why they spent most of the performance with their backs to the audience. Who did they think they were, The Jesus & Mary Chain??

If you watch that clip again, right at the start, on the left, you can see some people wo certainly appear to be singing, just off stage.

In the TV show I watched, Belle and her Devotions explained it all away thusly: Eurovision rules were that you could have up to six backing singers performing, and you could place them anywhere. As the act were known for being a threesome, they elected to have their three permitted backing singers off stage.

Do we buy that, dear reader?

Thought not.

This is where Brexit took root, the moment when we began to show a flagrant disregard for them rules what them unelected Eurocrats tried to impose on us, and I’m damned proud of Our Girls for sticking it to Johnny Foreigner.

Love Games should be sung at the Last Night of the Proms instead of Rule Brittania, and Nigel Farage should be forced to have the words Love and Games tattooed on each arse cheek in a nod to where his pseudo-patriotism stems from.

Boris would too, if he didn’t already have the words Oven and Ready tattooed there (actually, he has ven on the right cheek and Ready on the Left, both upside down, so he has to stand on his head in order that it reads properly). The job of tattooing the PM’s buttocks didn’t go out to tender, but was hurried through a VIP lane, where one Dido Harding was awarded the gig, despite having zero experience in the art of the needle, but she does have the experience of being married to a Tory MP, which will do just as well.

Got there eventually.

Hope those images don’t spoil your night.

More soon.

I’m Not Too Keen on Mondays

Good morning to all of you for whom it is morning. And it’s the very worst kind of morning: a Monday morning.

But fear not, for this is the page where we do the rabbit ears sign behind Monday morning’s head as it’s having a really important photo taken, and post a song so irresistably great none of us will be able to remain in a skulking under-duvet torper, willing our alarm clocks to retreat by at least 24 hours.

And here, from the days before they were known as Diana Ross &…. (and I literally mean days – this was their final single release before Ms Ross’s moniker moved centre stage), it’s The Supremes:

The Happening

The Supremes – The Happening

Is there a group called The Happening? If so, they should totally release a single called The Supremes and see what confusion hilariously ensues. (If there is, they probably spell their name wackily, like The Hppning or something.)

More soon.

Friday Night Music Club

Welcome back. Time for Part Two of our questions/answers/lost/directions/yes-it-is-quite-a-broad-theme-this-isn’t-it? theme. And to get us going, there’s just one question that needs answering:

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218. Tindersticks – Can We Start Again?

Yet another band I’m surprised I haven’t mentioned already on these pages. This is from their fourth album “Simple Pleasures”, which saw a change in direction from those that preceded it. Almost entirely gone were the earlier albums’ string laden lounge jazzy feel (I really haven’t done them justice there), replaced by a more snappy, soulful sound. “Simple Pleasures” may not be the Nottingham band’s best work, wonderful as it is, but it’s certainly their most accessible, a good stepping on point for the uninitiated. Plus it has an artfully shot nude woman on the cover. So y’know…something for everyone.

And if anyone is going to give us permission to start again, then who better than:

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219. Teenage Fanclub – Start Again

On the bus on my way to work on Tuesday, as there were no discarded copies of the Metro for me to flick through, I had a quick browse of Twitter, where I spied this tweet:

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Serendipity. Tickets purchased, I’ll be off to see The Fannies in Islington come September. I am already very excited. But not enough to start doing that annoying “149 sleeps” countdown thing people do when trying to appear cute.

Moving swiftly on, to this week’s entry into the “Bloody hell I’d forgotten all about them” hall of fame, this from 1992:

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220. Mega City Four – Stop

Named after an area in cult comic “2000AD“‘s iconic “Judge Dredd” strip, and led by a chap called Wiz, who sadly passed away in 2006, my path crossed with theirs in 1989/1990.

My mate Ian was a huge fan, and he was delighted when we managed to book them to play the Student Union venue “Shafts” on his birthday. However, the night didn’t pass without incident.

In the weeks beforehand, we’d had a lot of problems with student-hating Paul Calf types coming onto the campus, and into the Union building and causing trouble: picking fights, smashing the place up, smearing shit all over the gents’ toilet walls. Lovely stuff. Something had to give, and at a meeting of the Student Union Executive, it was decided that anyone trying to gain access to the Student Union building without a Union Card would have to pay a £10.00 entrance fee. I argued against this, because that meant that any locals wanting to come to the gigs we were putting on would have to pay twice: once to get into the building and then again to get into the venue. I was out-voted though and wouldn’t you just know it, the first night these draconian measures were implemented was the night of the Mega City Four gig.

The band were, understandably, not happy, but kind of got round the problem, with my knowledge (I can’t call it with my permission, but I certainly didn’t do anything to prevent their plan being out into action after they suggested it to me), by adding anyone who had to pay to get into the building on to the guest list for the gig. I think they would have refunded the difference to them too, if they could have done.

After the gig, as the roadies and sound crew were disassembling all the gear, I wandered over to have a chat with Wiz, to thank him for coming and putting on a great gig, and apologised for the problem with the door. His response was: “Don’t worry about it mate. It’s not your fault. It’s those faceless bastards that make the decisions, it’s theirs”. I decided against telling him I’d been in the room when the decision was taken and had been powerless to stop it.

There’s a line in “Stop” which always reminds me of that moment:

“They say actions speak louder than words
Whoever they may be
Probably the one’s who’ll break your back
To bolster up their insecurity”

Now, I’m not saying that conversation inspired Wiz to write “Stop” but I’m also not saying that it didn’t…

I fear we are about to get trapped in some sort of stop/start vortex:

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221. The Jam – Start!

I’m not going to dwell on this tune, as JC has recently finished discussing all of The Jam’s singles over at The (new) Vinyl Villain, so I’d suggest you pop over there is you want to learn more (like you don’t already read his blog anyway).

Instead, we’ll swirl around in the stop/start vortex a little more, with some outright, shameless pop:

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222. Erasure – Stop!

 They don’t get the credit they deserve, Erasure. Lead warbler Andy Bell is from my home town of Peterborough, so from their first UK hit in 1986 (which coincided with me starting 6th Form), I’ve found it quite hard to ignore them, and there are very few people of my age from who find it hard not to feel a little proud of him. Let’s face it, Peterborough is not exactly a town blessed with famous pop stars; the only other one I’m aware of is Aston Merrygold of JLS, whoever they are.

And someone else…it’ll come to me…no, no, don’t tell me….

That can’t be it, can it? I decided to do some research, and found this: Famous People from Peterborough You can imagine my surprise when I found there were 226 names on the list. You can imagine my additional surprise when I read that number one on the list: “David Michael Krueger, best known by his birth name, Peter Woodcock, was a Canadian serial killer and child rapist“. Turns out, whoever compiled this list hadn’t realised that as well as a Peterborough in the UK, there’s also one in Ontario, Canada, and New Hampshire, USA.

Which makes 226 look like quite a low number, now I think of it.

Maxim from The Prodigy!! That’s who the other one was!! Which gives me an excuse to play this:

But I digress. Erasure were (and apparently still are – who knew?) a fabulous pop band, and “Stop!” is one of my favourites by them, containing as it does, about half way through, that cheeky little keyboard motif lifted from Donna Summer’s “Love’s Unkind”. You know the bit I mean:

And think yourselves lucky I didn’t post a link to former EastEnder Sophie Lawrence’s version.

Whilst we’re on perfect pop moments, let’s have a bit of this:

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223. The Supremes – Stop! In the Name of Love

Back in the days before Miss Ross had elbowed herself to the top of the bill, but also before their photographer learned to give his camera lens a bit of a wipe before commencing the shoot, judging by the quality of the picture they used for the sleeve.

And now for a quick summary:

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224. Biffy Clyro – Questions And Answers

This is one of their earlier singles, from 2003 to be precise, and before they became the unexpected subject of a cover version by 2010 X-Factor winner Matt Cardle.

Does anyone have any clue quite how that was allowed to happen, by the way?

I’m reminded of a Stewart Lee (yes, him again) routine about Jim Davison pinching Jimmy Carr’s jokes, which, in the middle of a much longer piece about Joe Pasquale, you can find here:

 You take my point, I think.

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225. Queens of The Stone Age – Go With the Flow [Radio Edit]

Several years ago, I got…erm…acquainted with a young lady (who, gentleman that I am, shall remain nameless) on a works night out. We discussed our favourite records; mine included a few she didn’t know, hers included a few which made me question her intelligence. She came back to mine and…well, you know…some stuff happened. (See fellow music nerds – it can happen!!).

Before she made her way home, she asked me – yes, you read that right, she asked me – if I’d mind making her a mix CD of some of the songs I had been waxing lyrical about. Her taxi had barely pulled away when I started on it.

I mention this as a cautionary tale, for I compiled said CD, cramming it full of some of my favourites, without pausing to consider what kind of message my selections were sending out. Among them were: Kirsty MacColl’s “They Don’t Know”, The Go-Go’s “Our Lips Are Sealed”, the above Queens of the Stone Age track, and perhaps most ill-advisedly, a mash-up of Spanky Wilson’s version of “Sunshine of Your Love” and N*E*R*D’s “She Wants To Move” that I was particularly fond of at the time, and which had wittily been named “She Wants a Spank”.

Never heard from her again.

I was later told by a mutual friend that my selection or songs had given her the impression that I was some sort of secretive S&M gimp. I would have thought the sex-swing was a bigger clue.

(Just to be clear, that last sentence was a joke)

Ho hum. Lesson learned.

A few years ago, when I wasn’t working, as so often happens with people in the same situation, I found my sleep pattern all screwed up, sleeping all day and awake all night. Generally, my night times were filled watching the late night movies on Film 4, and it was in one such film that I first encountered our next tune. I have no idea what the film was called; it was a British film, set out in the countryside, had very little dialogue, and was quite an unsettling piece. Does anyone know what it’s called? (I know it has also been used in “The Place Beyond the Pines”, but it’s not that).

The record in question was this Bacharach/Hilliard composition:

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226. The Cryin’ Shames – Please Stay

Back to something a tad poppier now, and of course when I talked about Erasure earlier, I deliberately omitted to mention the other half of the pop duo, Vince Clarke. Which is lucky, because here he is again:

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227. Yazoo – Don’t Go

Bands Vince Clarke has been in:

  • Depeche Mode
  • Yazoo
  • The Assembly
  • Erasure

That’s not a bad strike rate is it?

Depeche Mode had their first hit in 1981, as anyone watching the run of old Top of The Pops currently being shown on BBC4 will attest – so that’s 35 years of pop, right there. Impressive.

Which is more than can be said for the next lot. Regular listeners to 6Music of an afternoon will recognise this from a shout-out on Radcliffe & Maconie’s show:

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228. The Blackout Crew – Put a Donk on It

Please remember that if you must put a donk on something, you should seek the bill payer’s permission first.

Back in 1990, there was no such thing as a donk. We had to make do with donk-free records. Records like this:

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229. James – Come Home (Flood Mix)

At the time, James were quite the merchandise marketeers, releasing a stream of clothing – t-shirts, hooded tops, etc etc – all bearing their insignia and the name of the current single. The one for Come Home was based on the sleeve of the single above, meaning it had the word Come on the front, and the word Home on the back. A mate of mine bought one, but rarely wore it, so sick was he of us all telling him “Oi mate, you’ve got come on your shirt”. Juvenile, but funny.

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230. The Mighty Wah! – Come Back

That, my friends, is one of the most glorious records from the early 80s, and isn’t even the best record that Pete Wylie made, either in one of his many Wah-guises (Wah!; The Mighty Wah!; Wah! Heat) or solo or even when he was knocking around with Ian McCulloch, Pete Burns and Julian Cope in the late 1970s. One day I’ll get round to playing you the greatest. You probably already know what it is.

And that’s about it for this week. Just one more to wrap things up; this seemed appropriate given the amount of songs I could have posted, the amount that I decided against posting, and the fact that every time I thought I’d exhausted the topic another one popped into my head. Needless to say, I could have gone on for another week, at the very least. Maybe I’ll come back to it sometime (see what I did there?).

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231. The Animals – We Gotta Get Out of This Place

More soon.

Friday Night Music Club

After the terribly sad, unexpected news on Monday, I’ve found it pretty difficult to get myself going this week, so I had decided I wasn’t going to post anything today, so bereft of ideas and inspiration was I.

I spent my journeys to and from work listening exclusively to Bowie records on my trusty mp3 player, only this morning deciding to switch it back to the random shuffle setting it usually rests on.

When you lose someone close to you, you often find the slightest thing will remind you of them. Now, I’m not suggesting that I was close to Bowie, but his works were close to me. And all of today’s songs came on as I travelled home, in, I kid you not, the order that I present them to you now. Each one made me think of Bowie, some for more obvious reasons than others, which I will try to explain as we go. So I figured they could be this week’s addition to our Friday night. Hopefully, you won’t think I’m sullying the memory, that’s most definitely not the intention.

C’mon kids, we can get through this together.

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69. The Webb Brothers – I Cant Believe You’re Gone

Fairly self-explanatory one, that, right?

Next, a song which Bowie covered on his 1973 album “Pin Ups”:

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70. The Kinks – Where Have All The Good Times Gone

Next up, a song which seems to sum up the ethos of Bowie:

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71. Mama Cass – Make Your Own Kinda Music

…followed by one which also has an apt title:

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72. The Supremes – I Hear A Symphony

I totally accept that the next song was written as a tribute to jazz legend Duke Ellington. But if the words “Thin” and “White” were added to the title….

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73. Stevie Wonder – Sir Duke

Next, this:

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74. Mansun – Wide Open Space

Okay, I’ll admit this one is a little tenuous. But since the news on Monday, all I’ve really wanted to do was get away from it all, escape, collect my thoughts.

So, moving on, a contribution from long term Bowie fan (although I gather they didn’t exactly hit it off when they met):

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75. Morrissey – I Will See You In Far Off Places

And finally:

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76. Roy Orbison – In Dreams

This one, to wrap things up, has everything, even a mention of Stardust.

I promise to post something a little more upbeat over the weekend.

More soon.