Bad News Comes in Threes

When, at the end of January, I first posted about my best friend Llyr’s passing, it attracted many lovely comments.

Something happened last week which reminded me of one them, which JTFL (that’s Johnny the Friendly Lawyer to you and me) had posted: “Oh, man. It really pours.”

For just as I thought my year couldn’t get any shittier, a letter from the letting agency I rent my flat through landed on my doormat.

This is what it said:

Please find enclosed an official notice confirming that possession will be required at the end of the notice period.”

The notice informed me I had two months in which to find somewhere else to live and, somehow magically, conjure up a deposit/bond for the new place.

I believe the phrase is: Oh. Fuck.

Some background info: last year, after six years of me not exactly complaining about cracks in the walls and ceiling, but certainly mentioning it to the letting agency I rent through, suddenly something happened. The matter was referred to the landlord’s buildings insurers, who did some testing, identified the issue and rectified it.

They now wished to come into my flat, do whatever repairs were required, and then redecorate.

This is quite an unusual situation for a tenant; usually any redecoration happens between tenancies, but here was an insurance company offering to redecorate whilst a tenant was in situ.

Obviously, I wanted to assist, and it was agreed that I would vacate the flat for a short period, roughly two weeks, whilst the works were done. All of my worldly belongings would be placed into storage, and I would be placed in a Travelodge or similar for the duration.

Inconvenient though it was, I was on board with this. To be honest, I was looking forward to an Alan Partridge “Big Plate” kind of scenario.

So I started packing all of my stuff away.

And then I was admitted to hospital, and everything ground to a halt.

As regular readers will know, since my discharge from hospital, I’ve been experiencing pain and loss of strength in my arms, and pain and loss of grip/function in my hands. Investigations into this are ongoing (I had a PET scan this week), but this prevented me from continuing to pack my stuff away.

Over the past couple of weeks, however, I’ve noticed a real improvement. I can open some bottles and jars which I couldn’t before. I have to take fewer painkillers. I’m gradually increasing my hours at work. There’s an upwards trajectory.

What I should have done was notify the letting agents/the landlord of my current condition, but I didn’t.

Hence the repossession notice.

I understand why it happened: they thought I wasn’t playing ball anymore, so decided the only way to progress matters (and get the insurers to pay for the repairs and redecoration) was to get me out.

A flurry of emails ensued, including one where I explained all that most of you have read on these pages recently about my ill-health, apologising profusely for failing to keep them in the loop.

And then, thankfully, the much-welcomed news came through: the landlord would revoke the repossession notice (not said, but implicit: as long as I played ball with the redecoration stuff).

So, I’m going nowhere (except to the delights of a Travel Tavern, somewhere in my locality, taking my big plate with me).

Phew. Bullet dodged.

This song springs to mind:

pleasure

Girls At Our Best – Getting Nowhere Fast

Which, of course, I only know of because of this cover version:

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The Wedding Present – Getting Nowhere Fast

Although this one springs to mind too:

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Therapy? – Nowhere

I am, of course, mindful, that had my email appeal not been succesful, then this, absolutely wonderful, long-forgotten song would have been a far more appropriate tune:

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Lodger – I’m Leaving

I’ve been trying to find a reason to post that for ages, without tarring it with the Brexit brush. Result!

When I found out that my persuasive skills had prevailed, I called my parents, who were obviously on notice of the situation. My mother seemed unsurprised; when I was growing up she had to deal with many pointless arguments with me, insufferable teenager that I was. Not just a bit like, but a lot like this:

I emailed the insurers on Wednesday, inviting them to call or email me so matters could progress. No reply as of yet.

More soon.

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La Singe est sur la Branch

A long time ago, in a galaxy not so far, far away, I used to post a thing on a Friday night called Friday Night Music Club.

The intent was to try and recreate some playlists I made when times were hard and staying in (and drinking, maybe dancing but hopefully singing-a-longing) were the only goals.

I stopped writing it when it metamorphised into ten tunes with a linking theme, and I realised that Rol over at My Top Ten already did pretty much the same thing, much better. Props to the originator and all that.

Anyway, one of the themes I focused on way back then (for way too long, if memory serves) was song titles with a question in it. And looking back, I find it bordering on incredible that I missed out today’s tune, which I was reminded of when 6Music tweeted this the other night:

q

This one:

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The Wedding Present – Why Are You Being So Reasonable Now?

Not least because it would have been an opportunity for me to bang on about Remain and illustrate it by posting the French version, which popped up as an extra track on the CD single version:

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The Wedding Present – Pourquoi Es Tu Devenue Si Raisonnable?

Still, now I get to sound bilingual (which I’m not) and a fan of Eddie Izzard (which I am):

Plus a venir. (More soon)

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:

p0282jjf
“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:

cover

Teenage Fanclub – Star Sign (Remastered)

cover

Teenage Fanclub – Commercial Alternative (Remastered)

grand

Teenage Fanclub – Don’t Look Back (Remastered)

cover

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.

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.

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