So much for my plans to post every day this week; they were well and truly scuppered by my laptop having a near-death experience on Wednesday. Programs started crashing left right and centre, it suddenly decided that it no longer wanted to recognise the external hard drive where all my tunes live (“It’s right fucking there, you’re connected to it, what do you mean you can’t access it?!?!”), and that it didn’t like the idea of shutting down, only restarting. V-e-r-y-s-l-o-w-l-y-i-n-d-e-e-d.

I’ve spent the last couple of evenings running numerous scans, system restore activities, and here I am at 23:35 on Friday night and it seems to be behaving again. (Cue almighty crash any second…)

Hopefully, I’ve got it sorted now, but if I disappear again, you’ll know why, and also hopefully it will also be temporary – because purchasing a new laptop is out of the question at the moment.

So, my apologies for the absence of any posts for the past couple of days. I’ll pick up and finish the Get Off My Playlist series next week, and Friday Night Music Club will return too (like anyone missed it…).

Anyway, whilst I was having near-death experiences with my laptop, there were others who had the more unpleasant, and final, actual death experiences.

Those of you of a similar age to me (or, heaven forbid, even older) will doubtless have been as saddened as I was by the news of the passing of Bernard Cribbins this week.

Cribbins was someone who I grew up watching and listening to: he was the narrator and the voice of The Wombles, an animated interpretation of Elizabeth Beresford’s creations. All episodes were made and originally aired between 1973 and 1975, but they were often repeated in the “just before The 6 O’Clock News” slot on BBC1 when I was growing up.

Everyone had their favourite Womble, and mine was undoubtedly this chap:

For the uninitiated, that’s Orinoco, described on wiki thusly: “…a shirker who loves sleep and food, styled on Beresford’s teenage son and named after the river in South America. Though lazy and slothful by nature, Orinoco is resourceful and always means well, and is capable of some surprising acts of moral and physical courage.” Those all seemed admirable qualities to the young me (and still do, if I’m honest). Also: he wore a scarf and a big hat, a bit like another favourite of mine at the time, Tom Baker’s incarnation of Dr Who.

Although he didn’t appear on the records they released in the 1970s (they were all written and performed by Mike Batt), whenever I hear that theme tune – or indeed any of the eight (!) hits they amassed – it’s Cribbins that I imagine warbling along:

The Wombles – The Wombling Song (Full Version)

The Wombles – Remember You’re a Womble

Voiceover work was his food and drink in the 70s; he was the narrator and voices of the Tufty in road safety adverts:

…and the voice of Buzby in the BT TV ads:

…and when he wasn’t doing that or reading a story on Jackanory he was appearing in three of the early (i.e. not so blue) Carry On… films, was in the original version of Casino Royale, an episode of Fawlty Towers, the film version of The Railway Children, even Hitchcock’s Frenzy. He was also in silent comedy classic The Plank, Worzel Gummidge, Last of the Summer Wine (where all elderly actors used to spin out their final days) and Coronation Street, as well as the second (back in the 1960s) Doctor Who film Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. before popping up post Who-reboot as Donna’s grandfather Wilf, initially as a peripheral character but progressing to fully-fledged companion, albeit briefly, towards the end of David Tennant’s time as the titular Doctor.

I could go on for a very long time about Cribbins acting credits.

But then, of course, there were the hit records, all from 1962:

Bernard Cribbins – The Hole in the Ground

…the slightly less well-known, and “of it’s time”:

Bernard Cribbins – Gossip Calypso

…not forgetting the much more famous:

Bernard Cribbins – Right Said Fred

We can forgive him for the dreadful band and personalities that song subsequently gave birth to. Wasn’t Bernard’s fault. We can also forget – just about – that both The Hole in the Ground and Right Said Fred could be construed as satirical swipes at the working classes.

RIP Bernard. And thanks for brightening up my childhood.


Meanwhile, on the same day as it was announced that Bernard passed, another “just before The 6 O’Clock News” institution was dying; dropped by the BBC years ago – from where it found fame in the late 1980s – and subsequently picked up by Channel 5, Neighbours went the same way as other on-their-deathbed shows like Big Brother that the channel has tried to resuscitate without success.

Like most people, I haven’t watched the show for years, but, also like most people, I did tune in back in it’s heyday, when it seemed to churn out popstars faster than you could say “Strewth! Throw another prawn on the barbie, will you Sheila?”

Kylie Minogue, Jason Donovan, Holly Valance, Natalie Imbruglia (sigh), Delta Goodrum, Craig McLachlan, not to mention acting royalty Margot Robbie, Russell Crowe, Chris Hemsworth, Liam Hemsworth, Luke Hemsworth (No, me neither), Guy Pearce, Alan Dale and comedian Mark Little all paid their dues flapping around Erinsborough and have since spent their time trying to fill their CVs so they don’t have to mention it.

But just like Coronation Street has long-time stalwart Ken Barlow, there since episode 1, so Neighbours has their not-there-since-episode-1-but-still-been-there-for-quite-a -long-time star. And what do you know, he too had a forage into the world of pop music, something which Ken, to the best of my knowledge, thankfully never did.

Unfortunately, the star of whom I speak made a record so bad it made Craig McLachlan’s pop career sound like the Rolling Stones. A song so awful, I used to deliberately reference or – God help me – sing it to an old workmate of mine, knowing that it would stick in his brain for the rest of the day and would drive him to distraction.

And now it’s your turn. Here you go:

Stefan Dennis – Don’t It Make You Feel Good

You’re welcome. Bet you’re glad I got my laptop working now, right?

More soon.

It’s Chriiiiistmas!!!

I promised myself I wasn’t going to do this.

Stay away from the Christmas tunes, I said.

I had made a pledge to myself. You have nothing to add to the medium of Christmas tunes, nothing your readers won’t already know, I told myself, so steer clear.

But did I listen? Well, here we are, so did I fuck.

Because two things happened.

Thing number one: I worked from home on Thursday. Not the most Christmassy of things to do, I grant you. I spent the afternoon tapping away at my keyboard whilst listening to Radcliffe & Maconie on 6Music. I learned two things from their show:

  1. That the chocolate on a chocolate Digestive biscuit is actually the bottom, not the top (who knew???), and
  2. The Courteeners, a band I had no time for up until now, had only gone and released a rather fine Christmas song.

I could track it down and post a link to it so you can download it for nothing, but the single is released in conjunction with the homeless charity Shelter, so what kind of monster would that make me?

So, you can hear it here, but please go and buy it too.

Well, if I’m going to post a song called “Winter Wonderland”, then I can’t really ignore this, now can I? Taken from undoubtedly the greatest Christmas album ever, I give you:

front1 Darlene Love – Winter Wonderland

Thing number two: as I was sitting here, searching for inspiration about what I could I write, shortly after 1am this morning I had a text from Hel, telling me she was watching a music channel which had devoted itself to playing Christmas records, as they often do at this time of year, and she had heard the following two songs:

Single_Pretenders-2000_Miles_cover_(gatefold) The Pretenders – 2000 Miles

Oh, and here’s them doing the same song, in a rather lovely acoustic kinda way:

The Pretenders – 2000 Miles (Live & Acoustic)

and, this:

david-essex-a-winters-tale-mercury David Essex – A Winter’s Tale

That was co-written by Mike Batt, who of course is much better known for his involvement with this bunch of scrounging homeless benefits-cheats:

cd-wombling-merry-christmas The Wombles – Wombling Merry Christmas

Batt is also known for co-writing this, with Tim Rice, a totally non-Christmassy record, but I was asked to post it a few months ago, so here we go Chad, I finally managed to crowbar it in:

I_Know_Him_So_Well Elaine Page & Barbara Dickson – I Know Him So Well

Ok, so I seem to have got off the Christmas vibe with that one, so let me get things back on track with the final two songs.

Every year, me and my little group of buddies meet up for a Christmas knees-up. same venue every year: The Dublin Castle, or the Scrublin as we affectionately refer to it, in Camden.

The nights generally follow the same pattern: we meet, exchange Christmas cards (I try to think of a new reason why I haven’t bothered writing them this year), then we proceed to get right royally trashed, somewhere in the middle there is a speech, then we plough money into the juke box, all the time waiting to hear the one song that will have us all drunkenly swaying, hugging each other, and singing along. I speak of none other than the undisputed greatest Christmas record ever made:

FairytaleOfNewYork The Pogues feat. Kirsty MacColl – Fairytale of New York

My parents lived in Ireland for a few years; I would pop over there at Christmas to be with them, and on the drive back from the airport, Dad would put the radio on. And this was being played on repeat on whatever radio station he put on. It’s practically their National Anthem.

So, final tune. When Hel told me she was watching Christmas tunes, I emailed her a link to the YouTube video for the next song.  Her response, and I quote:

“They sing Santa, mistletoe, snow and Christmas tree. It’s Christmas song bingo!” You can see why she’s my bezzy mate, right?

Since my only DMCA take down notice has been served by this lot, you will excuse my deliberate mis-spelling of their name, but here’s

MI0002431471 Qatus Toe – It’s Christmas Time

I guarantee, that’ll be stuck in your head for ages now.

Anyway, that’ll ding dang do from me for now.

More soon.