The ‘Miss You’ Nights Are The Longest

Other than the obvious health issues, the thing which has annoyed me most about my current condition is the amount of nights out that I’ve missed.

It was my office Christmas night out this week, and despite assurances from Kay that senior management had said it was okay for me to go, I didn’t think it appropriate for someone who hasn’t been to work since late October and who’s been signed off work until early January to attend it.

More than that, my group of best buddies here in London traditionally have a night out every year, where we drink, sing and occsionally dance. This annual event used to be held in The Dublin Castle in Cardiff (ooops!) Camden, but over the past couple of years has moved to The Effra in Brixton. Despite the appearance I may have given by writing lots of posts on here in the past couple of weeks, I’m by no means fully recovered yet (I’ll explain in one of my hospital-related posts shortly) and just not up to it (note: as opposed to up for it, which I definitely am), and so I’ll sadly be missing out this year. Guys, girls: I love you all, and hope you have a blast without me, implausible as that may seem.

But much as I love my friends, even worse than that is missing a load of gigs I had tickets for.

For a start, a few months ago, before I was taken ill, my longest serving (30+ years and still going strong) friend Richie got in touch to see if I fancied going to see Johnny Marr at The Roundhouse. I’d seen Johnny a few years ago at Brixton Academy and loved every minute of it, so I of course agreed. Richie bought tickets, but around a week before the gig, reality kicked in and, extremely reluctantly,I had to let him know my attendance was not going to be possible.

This, lifted from a 6Music performace back in 2014, seems appropriate to post:

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“What do you mean, you’re not coming?”

Johnny Marr – Still Ill (BBC 6 Music)

When Richie bought the tickets for Johnny, rather than paying him for them, I suggested a gig which I’d pay for. That gig happens tonight in Islington’s O2 Academy, and is long-time beloved of us both The Wedding Present, performing their 1988 album Tommy. Again, I had to let Richie know at the weekend that I couldn’t go, but, nice guy that I am, I insisted that was no reason for him and +1 not to go, so I forwarded the tickets on to him this week. Richie: Merry Christmas – I hope they get to you in time, and if so, that you have ruddy swell old time.

Tommy, according to Wikipedia, is a compilation album “gathering the band’s first four singles, their B-sides and selected tracks from two early radio sessions.”

It includes this piece of majestic anguish:

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Galling as it is is missing out on those two gigs, they pale into comparison with my not being able to go a three-night stand at Camden’s Electric Ballroom by Teenage Fanclub.

The gigs had been arranged in support of the release of the remastered versions of the albums they released…well, this explains it nicely:

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To make matter worse, it turned out that the gigs woud also mark the end of original member and significant song-writer Gerard Love’s involvement with the band. So, here’s a Love-penned tune from each of those remastered albums:

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Teenage Fanclub – Star Sign (Remastered)

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Teenage Fanclub – Commercial Alternative (Remastered)

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Teenage Fanclub – Don’t Look Back (Remastered)

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Teenage Fanclub – Take the Long Way Round (Remastered)

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Teenage Fanclub – I Need Direction (Remastered)

Gutted.

If you’d like to read a review of the Glasgow gigs from this tour, I’d thoroughly recommend visiting the ever-wonderful Plain or Pan. It made me sick, not just about what I’d missed out on, but how well written it is, neither of which should have surprised me in the slightest.

More soon.

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I’m Not To Keen On Mondays

Here we go, here we go, here we go. Football, football, football.

I’m not getting carried away, of course. Disappointment is just round the corner.

In the run up to the World Cup, the History Channel showed a load of football related documentaries, including one which I absolutely love: One Night in Turin.

It’s a truly spectacular documentary, explaining where England was back in 1990, with football hooliganism prominent and ID cards mooted. Plus, it’s narrated by Gary Oldman, which gives it a bit of gravitas.

We all know how it ends, of course; Chris Waddle blazes his penalty over the bar, but there’s a really wonderful few moments after that, as the camera tracks him, and you see the German captain Lothar Matthäus come and console him not once, but twice.

And the film has a great soundtrack too, cherry-picked from songs which were popular and/or cool back in 1990.

As you watch it, the tunes keep coming and they take you back as much as the footage does.

And then, suddenly, this morning’s tune clang clang clangs its way in, and I have the biggest, stupidest grin on my face. Because that’s what this record does to me. And to you, probably.

I said that yesterday’s Late Night Stargazing post featured one of the greatest records ever made; turns out I’m posting another one today. I’m not sure how long I can keepy this up for. (No, you’re right, that doesn’t quite work, does it?).

Incoming.

Kennedy Front

The Wedding Present – Kennedy

More soon.

loudQUIETloud

Mention the above phrase, and those wise old sages amongst you will see it as a Pixies reference.

Some may see it as a Nirvana reference, but since Kurt Cobain often cited Pixies as an influence, it’s not unreasonable to assume that when his records did the whole loudQUIETloud thing, as they often did, there was a hat being tipped in their direction.

And no, the emphasis isn’t all wrong in me/us/them referring to loudQUIETloud; the very point of it is that sandwiched between loud sections, the quiet(er) moments stand out for their oasis-like (no, not them) idyllic calm and beauty.

But in 1991 one band took it a step further: quietVERYLOUDINDEEDnomorequietbits.

Step forward The Wedding Present and the first single from the Steve Albini produced Seamonsters album.

It’s hard to communicate quite the impact this made on hearing it for the first time. The lyrical bent is as one had come to expect from Wedding Present stalwart David Gedge, although rather than the protagonist being unloved or dumped as had generally been the case previously, now the subject of the song is one half of an illicit affair.

And musically: well, it starts as a slightly low-key, stripped down sound, in much the same way as Blur would succesfully adapt on their 1997 Blur album. There are no trademark break-neck jangly guitars a la  ‘Shatner’ on display here.

And then.

And then it just fucking explodes into a sheer wall of noise: an angry, seething, frustrated, unfettered, raging wall of sound, the exact opposite of that which Phil Spector tried to do in the 60s, but no less exquisite for it.

If you’re listening to this on your headphones, I recommend you either turn the volume up or down, depending on your proclivities, around the 2:18 mark, because it’s at 2:20 that the fireworks start:

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The Wedding Present – Dalliance

Genuis. No other word for it.

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

Did I mention that I love The Wedding Present?

They’re without doubt the band I’ve seen more than any other since I first saw them way back in 1988, and now I manage to go see them at least once a year.

A couple of years ago, I caught them performing the album that tonight’s song is from – 1994’s Watusi – which is an often-overlooked gem in my book.

For those of you who think they’re a bit of a one-trick pony I urge you to listen to this and see just how utterly wrong you are:

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The Wedding Present – Spangle

Just plain heart-achingly gorgeous.

More soon.

A Mix-Tape Maker’s Best Friend

Been a while since I wrote one of these, but the news this week that there will no longer be a print version of the NME has spurred me into life.

I can’t really shed a tear for the NME moving to an online presence only; I haven’t read it for fifteen years or so, certainly haven’t bought it since Emo was a thing, and have never managed to pick up a free copy outside a tube station in London.

I did, however, purchase it semi-religiously from the late 1980s until the very late 1990s. Just like everyone has a Dr Who that is “theirs”, who resonates with their youth, so it is with the NME. I wish I could say that I bought it when Danny Baker et al were the scribes in residence, but my time involved the likes of Andrew Collins, Stuart Maconie, Stephen Dalton, Tom Hibbert, David Quantick, Barbara Ellen, Mary Anne Hobbs and Steve Lamacq. Looking at that list explains why I listen to BBC 6Music so much these days.

The NME was renowned for attaching the occasional cassette to the front cover; regrettably I was too late to grab a copy of the seminal C86 tape at the time, however I did go and purchase today’s selection, which was released in 1988 in conjunction with, and to raise funds for, Childline, a free 24-hour counselling service for children.

The Sgt. Pepper Knew My Father was released to mark the 21st anniversary of the original release of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band, and as I’m typing this, it seems just unbelievable that another thirty years have passed since then.

The idea was this: get current bands to record cover versions of every track on the album. And so it was that the tribute album was born.

As with many albums of this sort, it’s patchy to say the least. But here’s the tracks I like the most from it. And that one by Wet Wet Wet, which I include purely because it was released as a double ‘A’ side with Billy Bragg’s cover on the other side, which led to Simon Bates having to say on Top of the Pops, after the Wetx3s had mimed their smiley asses off, the following words: “That’s number one, and the other side is number one as well. Here’s Billy Bragg.”

Billy Bragg at #1 in the UK Charts. The stuff that dreams are made of.

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Wet Wet Wet – With A Little Help From My Friends

The Wedding Present with Amelia Fletcher – Getting Better

Billy Bragg with Cara Tivey – She’s Leaving Home

Frank Sidebottom – Being For Benefit Of Mr. Kite

Sonic Youth – Within You Without You

Michelle Shocked – Lovely Rita

The Triffids – Good Morning Good Morning

The Fall – A Day In The Life

A few years later, I was travelling somewhere (I forget where) with a friend who was a massive Beatles fan. He had asked me to put together a mix-tape for the journey, which for reasons that escape me now, I gave to him in advance of our trip to listen to. I included The Fall track, which he took exception to.

“Who the hell is that murdering A Day In The Life?”, he asked before I had clicked the seatbelt into place.

I looked at him, baffled, bemused.

“It’s The Fall. Obviously. It’s obviously The Fall. And they’ve not murdered it. They’ve Fall’ed it.”

I wonder if, after Mark E Smith’s death in January, he is claiming to have listened to The Fall since the late 80s. I know he occasionally reads this, so I’ll report back.

More soon.

Definitely Not Something and Nothing

Following on from the last post (in an effort to make it look like I plan the shizzle I post here), there are two events from 2017 which stand out for me, and both involve the same person.

I’m not going to bang on about it again, but in November my old mate Rich and I went to see the Mighty Spurs play – and thrash – the Galacticos of Real Madrid. Seeing Ronaldo look even more pissed off than he must have done when they unveiled that bust of him was glorious.

And back in June – on his (Rich’s, not Ronaldo’s) birthday – we went and relived our youth, watching The Wedding Present perform their iconic “George Best” album, a record over which our friendship was first forged, a long, long time ago.

Both of those nights will live long in the memory, partly because they were great nights, but mostly because I got to share both of them with my old mate of thirty years (and counting).

So, here’s something from that album, one that doesn’t usually get played, but one which I love (but then I love every song on it, so that’s no great accolade…):

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The Wedding Present – Something and Nothing

Bring on the “Tommy” tour!

More soon.

The A Word

I was genuinely pleased to see the return for a second series this week of BBC drama The A Word.

I really enjoyed the first series which I had watched for one simple reason: Christopher Eccleston. 

Eccleston is an actor I could watch endlessly; I’ve never seen him be in anything bad, and I’ve never seen him be bad in anything.

And before you ask, my admiration for him pre-dates his brief stint as Dr Who. It even pre-dates his appearances in Danny Boyle directed movies like Shallow Grave and 28 Days Later.

Although actually, the source of my admiration for Eccleston comes from the same year as Shallow Grave, 1994, but I didn’t watch that until after I’d seen – and because I had seen – Cracker.

Cracker was a rarity in my book: a compelling, well-acted, well-scripted drama on ITV; I can’t think of a single drama they have shown which comes anywhere close to how good that show was in it’s first and second series. Much of that was down to the writing, by Jimmy McGovern; as with Eccleston, to this day, I try to watch anything which has his name attached to it.

The show also introduced me to a couple of other actors that I still try to catch as often as possible: John Simm, Samantha Morton and Robert Carlyle.

In fact, Carlyle plays a large part in the reason I loved this show.

Spoiler alert.

One of the reasons Cracker left a massive impression on me was the shocking, death of Eccleston’s character, DCI David Bilborough, at the hands of Carlyle’s Albie Kinsella, in the first story of the second series, “To Be a Somebody”.

This was something I had never seen before: a main character brutally, unexpectedly, killed off. Other TV shows have since followed suit (although I’ve never watched it, Spooks springs to mind). And if you think about it, that’s drama reflecting real life; when people die young, or in the line of duty, you generally don’t expect it, so the loss is a bolt from the blue, an absolute shock.

But I digress. When I saw that Eccleston was going to be in the first series of The A Word, I knew I was going to have to watch it.

The A Word is about Joe,  a young boy on the autistic spectrum, and the effect that his condition (and other things) has on his extended family.

Joe finds it difficult to engage with people, but he finds it very easy to engage with music; he has a pair of headphones permanently attached to him, can quote the year each song he listens to was released, who it was by, etc, and often the bulk of his conversation is focused on song titles and lyrics of his favourite songs.

And joy of joys, he has bloody great taste in music. Here’s three songs which featured heavily in the first series:

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The Only Ones – Another Girl, Another Planet

And – don’t knock this one, it’s bloody great, if not quite in the same league as the two it’s sandwiched between here:

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Will Young – Leave Right Now

And, since I haven’t posted it for a while, and it remains one of the greatest (indie) records ever:

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The Wedding Present – Kennedy

The entire first series is available to watch on the BBC iPlayer, should you be so inclined.

Or, some kind soul has compiled a playlist of all the songs which featured in Series 1 over on YouTube, which you can have a look at here.

So, could the second series match the very high standards it had set itself in the first series?

Oh, yes.

Here’s what the music over the first scene was:

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Buzzcocks – Everybody’s Happy Nowadays

Promising.

And then, a little later, gloriously, this:

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The Wedding Present – Brassneck

Note: not the album version, but the Steve Albini produced single version. Class.

So anyway, if you enjoy the sort of stuff I post here, give The A Word a look. You might even quite like the drama aspect, but if you don’t, you’ll love the soundtrack.

And if Joe isn’t writing his own music blog by the time Series 3 comes around, I’ll be very disappointed.

Either way, that should have got your weekend off to a decent enough start.

I’m tempted, as the series progresses, to feature all the great songs that feature in the show. We’ll see (if I can be arsed).

In other words: More soon.

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