It’s been difficult decision time at Dubious Towers this week.
As regulars will know, I’ve been unwell for some time now, with issues with mobility/walking and also a reduced capacity in my hands/arms/wrists/fingers which has made it difficult and painful for me to grip, type and do all the other things one could reasonably expect our hands to do, which in turn has kept me off work for some time now.
Whilst my mobility has generally improved to the point where I no longer need to use a zimmer frame to get about – thanks in no small part to a couple of steroid injections and the draining of a load of as-yet-unidentified fluid from my left knee – the pain in my hands, wrists and arms has remained at roughly the same level.
I had been using this place as my own personal physiotherapy, writing in blocks of around 10-15 minutes or until I was in too much discomfort to continue. Recent longer posts like Friday Night Music Club and Rant have taken me several visits to complete. This is also why I’ve been even more rubbish than usual at responding to your Comments, so my apologies for that. I’d hate for you to think I was just being rude and ignoring you.
Since my ability to type is restricted to short bursts, I’ve been off work for three months now, and am currently signed off for a further month. As such, I have a serious case of cabin fever, and this place has been my release from watching Homes Under the Hammer and Bargain Hunt, so my decision has not been easy.
I’ve now had two consultations with a rheumatologist, and I’ve been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthiritis. On top of that, investigations are continuing as to whether I also have a “…subluxation at the left wrist joint.”
Here’s what Dr Google says about subluxations: “…[it’s] an incomplete or partial dislocation of a joint or organ. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a subluxation is a “significant structural displacement”.
I’m right-handed, so you can quit with all your rude thoughts about how I may have injured my left wrist.
I’ve been referred to a different consultant with specialism in this area (happening in early April), and in the meantime started on a course of meds to, hopefully, alleviate my other symptoms.
The upshot of all this is that I’m not sure that writing here is helping.
So, I’ve decided to take a step back again, and put writing here on hold.
For now, this, from Lush’s poptastic 1996 Lovelife album, a duet with Jarvis Cocker which is practically a partner-piece to Lodger’s wonderful I’m Leaving (which is hard to come by, and so I’ll find a reason to post it when I return). Never released as a single, Ciao! still became the title of Lush’s 2001 Best Of… album:
One of the things that I’ve been most surprised about during my enforced hiatus is the number of people who got in touch not just to wish me well (thank you!), but to tell me that they missed my occasional rants on here.
I was surprised not because I expected that the Friday Night Music Club would be the most missed series I write here (heaven forbid), but more because I figured my rants were largely preaching to the converted, telling you nothing you didn’t already know.
I checked back to see when I last wrote one: July 16th 2022. This was post-Boris, but in the middle of the jousting to become his successor, which means I didn’t have chance to write a single thing about Liz Truss and her remarkably succesful and long-lived occupancy of No.10 (sense the tone).
This disappointed me, because here was some rich comic/ranty pickings and I bloody missed it.
But fear not because – what’s that coming over the hill? Why, it’s Liz Truss on the comeback trail. Hoorah! Welcome back Liz!
A close ally (of hers, not mine), who, suprisingly, chose to remain anonymous, said: “Liz has taken a few months to gather her thoughts [That’s thoughts. Not thought. Thoughts. Plural!] and is now ready to speak about her time in office and the current state of play.”
Which she did: apparently, she was never given a “realistic chance” to implement her tax-cutting agenda, and was brought down by the combination of a “powerful economic establishment” and a lack of support from within the Conservative party.
A reminder: her radical tax-cutting budget riled financial markets, sank the pound, took British pension plans to the brink of collapse and led to a revolt within her own Conservative Party.
No: this was nothing to do with her economy-crashing ideas which, as they spectacularly unravelled in record time, led to her to throw Chancellor of the Exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng under the nearest bus in a desperate attempt to save her own skin:
Actually, that comparison is a little unfair; Scooby and Co only ever looked to blame those interfering kids, not the (notoriously!) left-wing economic establishment, who barely got a mention.
Truss is right of course: hop on rush-hour public transport in London on a week day morning, and after all the red braces and filofax brigade have alighted, all that’s left is not used/read/soiled copies of the Metro, as you would expect, but instead train and bus cabs are literally littered with discarded copies of Das Kapital, pertinent paragraphs furiously circled in biro or highlighted with marker pen.
In an unintended display of just how poor her maths skills are, Truss said: “I have lost track of how many people have written to me or approached me since leaving Downing Street to say that they believe my diagnosis of the problems causing our country’s economic lethargy was correct and that they shared my enthusiasm for the solutions I was proposing.”
Er…how many fingers do you have on each hand, Liz? Now take away four. You have lost track no longer. You’re welcome.
This probably, inadvertently, explains her economic policy, because if she can’t measure that on the fingers on one hand, then her plans for the country’s economy was not exactly in safe hands. David “Safe Hands” Seaman would have been a better bet, and he was last seen advertising “…affordable, high quality, energy efficient and secure windows and doors.” And he’s cut his shit ponytail off in an attempt to gain some authenticity and gravitas.
Which, inevitably, leads me to this:
Safe and reliable, right? Just as nobody wanted to shake hands with Seaman that night, you need to face it Liz: nobody wants to associate with you. You are, to quote Britney:
The prospect of Liz Truss making any kind of succesful comeback would be laughable, were it not for another former PM trying to do exactly the same thing. You know the chap: serial liar, shit hair cut, can’t keep his old chap zipped in. Sound familiar?
See, because there has been that Truss buffer, between his inept Premiership and now, the danger is that many will forget what a self-serving, lying, law-breaking stain on our democracy Boris Johnson was, and will fall for his frankly unfathomable charms once again.
Before we go any further, a quick reminder that Todger Johnson is currently contesting the Partygate allegations against him, and, assuming that you’re a fine and upstanding UK tax-paying member of society like me, that challenge is being funded by you and I:
At the same time, it was recently reported that Johnson was understood to have agreed to buy a £4m nine-bedroom, Grade II-listed home in Oxfordshire. With a moat, presumably to keep the oiks out.
Now, for the likes of you and I to get legal aid – that is, help with paying the legal costs in whatever legal dispute we may be involved in – we would have to show that (and this, from the government’s own website): a) the problem is serious (which sounds disconcertingly vague), and b) you cannot afford to pay for legal costs.
Call me old fashioned or out of touch, but someone who can afford to buy a £4m property does not sound to me like someone who cannot also afford to cover their own legal costs (although we can’t rule out a generous benefactor helping him out. Maybe someone with aspirations to be…oh, I don’t know…the chairman of the BBC).
But no: apparently, on top of all the extra shit we’re having to pay for right now – which cannot be contested, challenged or legislated against, for fear of upsetting the non-Russian contributors to the Tory pot – we also have to chip in for Johnson and his legal defence. Seems fair, right?
Anyway, I digress. Much as I loathe him (too), current PM (at the time of writing) Rishi Sunak, with his Windsor Agreement, seems to have sorted out the mess that is the Withdrawal Agreement which Johnson signed off on, which, from the sudden escalation in violence in Northern Ireland, is perhaps not quite the “oven-ready deal” that was pitched to us in the last election. Johnson lied to us, who’d have thunk it?
We already knew this, of course, for when he was still in power, Johnson performed one of the least convincing volte-faces in the history of, well, everything when, having promised that there wouldn’t be an Irish backstop (effectively an insurance policy in UK-EU Brexit negotiations, meant to make sure that the Irish border remained open, whatever the outcome of the UK and the EU’s negotiations about their future relationship after Brexit) or any checks at or near the border in Northern Ireland, or in the Irish Sea between the UK mainland and Ireland, when the latter inevtiably happened following agreement by Johnson, in contravention of the Good Friday Agreement, he claimed that the Withdrawal Agreement (which, just to emphasise, he signed off – “oven ready” and all that), was useless and needed to be renegotiated.
To summarise that: he knew what he agreed was rubbish, and now, having achieved what he wanted (election, big majority, power, etc.), he thought he could just change the deal. You know, like you can with deals you’ve already agreed.
And now he’s stood on the sidelines – just as he was when Theresa May was trying to negotiate the terms of Brexit – lobbing hand grenades and claiming they’re getting it all wrong. He’s like Alan Partridge telling the Bond-fest contributers that they were “…getting Bond wrong…”, that he could do so much better (clip posted before, always worth a watch, and the comparison stands). I can’t resist (Part 1):
…and then how Johnson views himself (I can’t resist (Part 2):
Don’t fall for it twice folks: he’s not interested in what’s best for the people of the UK, or Northern Ireland (part of the UK, I know, I’m making a point): all he is interested in is himself, what power and influence he can attain, and where his next extra-marital fuck can come from (I bet he’s gutted that both Sturgeon and Merkel are off the menu, he must have tried at least once each).
But credit where credit’s due: Sunak has struck a deal with the EU which gives Northern Ireland access to both the EU and the UK markets, without the need for any of this trifling border talk. And here he is bigging it up:
Hoorah for Rishi! He’s got Northern Ireland access to both the EU and the UK markets and this is the best thing…ever!
Oh hang on. Isn’t that what we had in the UK before Brexit?
Yup. Pretty sure we did.
But apparently the comparison between what has been agreed in this wonderful deal for Northern Ireland – which is clearly THE! BEST! THING! EVER! – and what us in the rest of the UK is lumbered with cannot be made.
Which leads me here: the apparent absence of fresh vegetables – specifically tomatoes – in our supermarkets.
Me? I just want to buy some tomatoes.
Remainers say that it’s because of Brexit, the breakdown in food supply chains, additional paperwork, etc.
Brexit supporters, on the other hand, pull their heads out of the sand long enough to point to adverse weather conditions in the countries growing the crops as being the reason for the failure (I cannot, in all conscience, continue to call supporters of Brexit ‘Brexiteers’, since it imbues them with some sort of glamour, glory or flair, a natural talent which, as far as I can see, they do not deserve. Despite what they say, they’re not fighting for the good of us all, they’re either a) protecting they’re off-shore investments and the non-tax-paying arrangements they have in place, b) are not yet ready to accept the over-whelming evidence that Brexit was a shit idea, or c) are just fucking idiots).
That said, they’re right. Up to a point. The weather is a factor in the supply chain problems.
Let’s take tomatoes as a case in point, since it is the lack of availability of our not-vegetable friends (it’s a fruit! Deal with it!) which is causing the most outrage.
See, during winter-times (i.e. now), we mostly import our tomatoes from Morocco.
But Morocco also has a trade agreement with the EU.
They cannot supply to both. So, faced with the choice of pissing off one of their biggest and most lucrative customers (the EU), or one of their smallest and least profitable, (the UK) they have taken the entirety sensible business step of keeping their biggest, most powerful contact as well stocked as can be managed, and pushed us, lowly little non-EU UK, to our rightful place in the queue.
So yes, the shortage may be down to adverse weather conditions, but supply to the UK is not.
But fear not! Environment Secretary Therese Coffey had ridden over the hill on her silver steed and proclaimed that people complaining about the tomato shortage should consider eating turnips instead. “[It’s] important we cherish the specialisms we have in this country,” she said. “A lot of people would be eating turnips right now.”
Don’t you just love the whole “coping with the economic crisis” advice we keep getting from the goverment, which saves them from actually doing something about it?
There’s a government funded advert on TV at the moment which helpfully suggests that we can save energy by turning down the radiators in rooms we don’t use. Who’s heating empty rooms?? Only idiots who need this kind of advice, that’s who.
The specialisms Coffey refers to seems to include having fucking idiots in charge.
Anyway, apparently, turnips are the same as tomatoes. I mean, who doesn’t love a delicious cheese and turnip sandwich? Or a salad, beautifully embellished by a juicy turnip? Or perhaps a splurge of turnip ketchup with our Friday night chips?
Ah, those sunlit Brexit uplands we were promised are now reduced to “let them eat turnips.”
The French revolted for less – but they’re in the EU, so best pretend they don’t exist, whilst we argue about where they can fish.
It seems Therese Coffey is the latest incarnation of Baldrick, where the answer to every problem is: a turnip.
Elsewhere in the (as I write this) current cabinet is Suella Braverman. A little background history: Braverman was appointed Home Secretary when Truss became Prime Minister. She then resigned as Home Secretary after she breached the Ministerial Code by sending sensitive information using her personal email address. Despite this. she was then reinstated as Home Secretary six days later by Rishi Sunak.
A big part of her job is dealing with immigration, and she has gone on record as saying: “I would love to have a front page of The Telegraph [where else?] with a plane taking off to Rwanda, that’s my dream, it’s my obsession.”
Anyway, I mention her now because of a song which her name reminds me of, but unfortunately you have to suspend disbelief for a moment for it to work. See, before I had heard it, when i had only seen her name written down, I had assumed it was pronounced Bray-ver-man as opposed to the correct enunciation of Brah-ver-man. But in that short window of mispronunciation, this tune lodged in my brain whenever I saw or read anything about her, the title of the song being replaced by her name; a tune which, given her love of immigrants (her own family excluded), I’m sure she’d appreciate:
A reminder: whilst Braverman was born in Harrow and raised in Wembley, her parents were immigrants, arriving from in Britain Indian in the 1960s from Mauritius and Kenya. Hmmm. Without immigration, Braverman wouldn’t be here, and I literally would not be writing this, so in some respects I do sort of see her point.
And I haven’t even started on the leaking of Matt Hancock’s Whats App messages (is it leaking if you’ve voluntarily handed all of the ‘leaked’ info over to a journalist?) or the demonising of Sue Gray from the right because her report doesn’t say what they wanted it to?
After having stated numerous times over the past few weeks that I try not to make these mixes themed, saving those for the occasional airing over at JC’s place, a themed mix is exactly what tonight’s is, although it’s a very loose theme that you may not have even noticed had I not been stupid enough to mention it.
I was thinking the other day about how I often bang on about when I started DJ’ing when I was at college, taking over the fortnightly Indie Disco at the beginning of my second year, which was way back in 1989. And I thought it might be rather nice to do a playlist of the sort of things we used to play, until the Madchester scene exploded and changed 80% of our playlist (for the better; the night was dying on its arse until we were saved by the lads and lasses in hoodies and massive flares).
So that’s what tonight’s mix is: a load of tunes from around the time when I started, some from a little earlier, some I must admit, from a little later. Also, I’ve tried to avoid some of the big hitters – so no Smiths, Cure, Echo & The Bunnymen. But I’ve tried to recreate how an hour of our Indie nights generally sounded back way back when.
Also, in a change to normal, instead of just giving you a tracklisting, I’ve added some sleeve notes for you. Cos I’m nice like that. I might carry that on, we’ll see.
I’ve kicked off with these two as a tip of the hat to the guy I first started DJ’ing with, a lad off my course named Danny Sweeney. He would always try to squeeze these in because “nobody else plays them”. Danny was sensible enough to stop DJing after a year so that he could focus on his course as it entered it’s final year; I was less sensible, stood for election for the post of Social Secretary, DJ’d loads more, and ended up having to retake my final year, adjudged to have failed the course because, although I passed all the exams and coursework, I hadn’t turned up to enough lectures. Not that I’m still bitter about it or anything, thirty years later, you understand.
3. The Darling Buds – Shame on You
Because of the size of the venue (400 capacity), we would often get little-at-the-time bands, on their way up. The Darling Buds played one Friday night; a day or so later I was talking to two blokes who were absolutely astounded that we’d had a band on who they saw on Going Live! (or whatever the Saturday morning live show on the BBC was called at the time) the next day.
The Darling Buds were one of a clutch of indie bands fronted by blonde female singers – see also The Primitives and Transvision Vamp. They were also the first band I ever met; my mate Keith and I being permitted access to the dressing room after the gig, where the band (and lead chanteuse Andrea in particular) studiously ignored us for about fifteen minutes until we sloped off with our tails between our legs.
4. The Wonder Stuff – Unbearable
Because the Indie night was not exactly the hottest ticket in town, you tended to notice and recognise most people there. And so it was that Keith and I took pity on one lad, who was always on his own. We invited him to join us, which he did. Soon afterwards, we realised why he was always alone: he was exceptionally dull. But now he thought we were his friends, so whenever we arrived he homed in on us like the world’s most boring missile. Burned into my memory is the time this tune, with lead Stuffie Miles Hunt at his sneering best, got played; we all danced, but Keith, unkindly in my opinion, kept singing the chorus in the lad’s general direction at first, and right in his face later. Fortunately, he just thought Keith really liked the song.
5. The Fall – Mr Pharmacist
Some big-hitters I just can’t leave out, and having mentioned Miles Hunt’s sneering, it seemed only right to post something by the late great Mark E. Smith, who seemed to have his upper lip permanently set to curl.
6. Sandkings – All’s Well With The World
Remember Babylon Zoo? Once upon a time, they had a few seconds of their record Spaceman used in a jeans advert, resulting in it being catapulted to the top of the charts, as was the way of the world back then. Problem was, the few seconds used in the ad were by far the best thing about the record, which swiftly descended into one of the dullest turgid drones ever to grace the charts at all, let alone the coveted #1 position. Well, this is the band that Babylon Zoo’s Jas Mann was in before he briefly found fame, and this is loads better than Spaceman. Around the time, many bands were trying to sound like either The Smiths or R.E.M.; this falls into the latter category.
7. Milltown Brothers – Never Come Down Again
Speaking of bands trying to sound like R.E.M., that was an allegation often levelled at this lot. I can kinda see what they meant, although it’s not a comparison I would have made myself. This is ace though, in an of-its-time way.
8. The Family Cat – Steamroller
Contains a really great loudQUIETloud section which is so good they repeat the trick later on, stretching out the elastic of the QUIET bit for so long that when it eventually twangs and the loud crashes back in again, the joyous rush it brings still gets me every time all these years later. Play it loud.
9. The Wedding Present – Don’t Laugh
Okay, okay, another from a big hitter, but this is one of the extra tracks from the Nobody’s Twisting Your Arm 12″, each of which is an absolute belter, detailing, as Wedding Present songs so often did, relationships on the cusp of breaking, or which have just gone over the edge. Gedge at his bitterest best.
10. Kingmaker – When Lucy’s Down
Because those few people who actually remember Kingmaker generally remember them for Ten Years Asleep, and not for this little beauty. Which is rather sad.
11. That Petrol Emotion – Hey Venus
Because many people think that the former Undertones only ever had one decent tune (Big Decision), and they’re wrong because this is pretty great, if a little poppier, too.
12. The Waltones – Bold
The Waltones should have been huge. But having tip-toed to the very verge of being popular, Madchester happened and suddenly their brand of jangly indie pop had fallen down the pecking order. Them’s the breaks.
13. James – How Was It For You?
The song which, along with Come Home, laid the foundation for their less-folky, more-stadium sound, before Sit Down was re-released for the umpteenth time and became the smasheroo we all know and love/hate (delete as applicable).
14. Inspiral Carpets – She Comes In The Fall
Still stands the test of time this one, in my book. Also in my book: the Inspirals were one the best singles bands of the late 80s/early 90s. Moo!
15. The Motorcycle Boy – Big Rock Candy Mountain
Just as C86 darlings The Shop Assistants had tickled the fancy of indie tweesters up and down the land, lead singer Alex jumped ship and formed The Motorcycle Boy. This is by far the best thing they ever did.
16. The Sundays – Can’t Be Sure
Oh, Harriet *sighs*.
17. World Of Twist – She’s A Rainbow
Long before The Verve, and around the same time as Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine felt the wrath of Jagger and Richards legal team, World of Twist released this rather wonderful cover of the Stones’ classic. They were sensible enough to dodge the lawsuits by remembering to credit the wrinkly wonders as songwriters though.
Well, there’s only one place to start my weeklyfortnightly when I can be bothered round up of news, and that’s here:
For those of you who may have been living under a (Chris) rock for the past week – maybe you’ve already made cutbacks by cancelling your broadband and selling your TV in anticipation of the moment, any day now, when all of the UK’s fuel and food prices go up – that was the moment when Will Smith (from off of the movies) got up and slapped Oscars host Chris Rock (from off those other movies that Will Smith passed on) for making a joke about Smith’s wife’s (Jada, a fine actor in her own right, and not deserving of the tag “Mrs Will Smith”) alopecia.
There’s a lot to unpack here. Firstly: it is not cool to make jokes about people’s medical conditions. We all got upset when Trump mocked a disabled guy at one of his rallies, so Rock should be spared no less criticism.
And alopecia is not only no joking matter, (without wishing to seem patronising or condescending) it’s way worse for female sufferers than men. Hair loss is accepted, even expected, in men, and their careers can happily carry on regardless, but when it happens to women, it’s a game changer.
The most high-profile example here in the UK is Gail Porter. One minute, she’s a hugely popular gorgeous blonde model, TV presenter and popular personality, so famous she had her arse projected onto the House of Commons to promote a lad’s mag (and who amongst us can brag that’s happened to us?), the next all her hair fell out and nobody wanted to book her anymore.
In a week when famous 67 year old baldie Bruce Willis announced he was retiring from acting due to health reasons, the contrast was obvious and maddening. I wish the guy all the best – he’s been responsible for some of my favourite moments in cinema (Butch in Pulp Fiction) and also my least favourite (that bloke who got his knob out in a swimming pool in Color of Night) – but God help us if it forces him to resurrect his singing career:
Pretty quickly the debate on social media became whether Smith’s slap was orwas not a publicity stunt. Well, the first time I watched it, I certainly thought it was. There was something about the way Rock kept his hands behind his back and seemed to almost his offer his cheek as a slapping target, along with the fact that Smith learned how to box when he was preparing to play Muhammed Ali on film (he knows how to punch, so why a slap? And why wasn’t he thrown out of the ceremony instead of being allowed to stay and collect his Best Actor award?), that made me think it may have been.
But then, I did what people on Twitter rarely do: I thought about it a bit more. If it was a publicity stunt, I thought, who gained from it? For sure, the only award winner I know from that night was Smith; I have no clue what won Best Picture or who won Best Director, but I do know Smith won for Best Actor – but I almost certainly would have known that anyway without this circus.
Similarly, Rock may have been the victim of the slap, but he did make a joke at the expense of Jada’s medical condition, so I would hope he would rather that went unhighlighted.
And Smith doesn’t gain anything either: he’s not just a wildly rich and successful black man – and we all know how much the media just loves those – now; he’s a wildly rich and successful black man with a temper.
So, not staged, for my money, especially when you see the whole footage, and in particular that Smith laughed at the ‘joke’ in question, until he caught the eye of his not-laughing wife, and he thought he had to do something to defend her honour and remind everybody what a good guy he is. Turns out he went too far, s’all.
Of all the people that you would have expected to try and hijack the narrative to make political capital on this, you’d have got good money on our very own Chancellor of the Exchequer being the one stepping up to the oche.
In an interview with BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg, he said: “Joe Root [captain of the England cricket team, who had just lost a series to the West Indies], Will Smith, and me – not the best of weekends for any of us.’
“But”, he continued, “I feel, on reflection, both Will Smith and me having our wives attacked – at least I didn’t get up and slap anybody, which is good.”
He was referring to this interview:
What’s interesting here is that Sunak’s wife, Akshata Murty, has a £430m shareholding in the IT firm Infosys.
Even more interestingly than that, ministers are obliged to publish details of any financial interests held by themselves, and their close family, which are relevant to their role in government. The ministerial code says that ministers “must ensure that no conflict arises, or could reasonably be perceived to arise, between their public duties and their private interests, financial or otherwise” and adds that ministers must provide their department’s top civil servant with a list of all interests which “might be thought to give rise to a conflict” – a list which should also cover “interests of the minister’s spouse or partner and close family”.
So his “I don’t know what my wife does or where her money comes from” defence frankly doesn’t wash. It pays for this rather lovely – and by the look of it, expensive – house you live in, you know Rishi: the place you got planning permission for a swimmingpool, gym and tennis court to be built on to last year, you hypocritical fuck:
Yet Mrs Sunak’s healthy interest in Infosys – or, indeed, any of the other six UK companies she holds direct shareholdings – are not declared in the register of interests.
While most big global IT and consultancy firms have all closed their operations posts since the situation in Ukraine escalated, Infosys is one of the few IT service companies which continues to operate in Russia.
Well, until this week anyway, when, in entirely unrelated news, a month after Russia commenced it’s attack on Ukraine, presumably delighted at the extra scrutiny it was suddenly attracting, Infosys quietly announced that it was shutting down it’s Russia office.
Also coincidentally, Infosys was not one of the companies operating out of Russia that had UK sanctions imposed on it.
A few weeks ago, I mentioned how indebted the Conservative Party is to Russian oligarchs with these words: “Carrie Symonds, the current Mrs Johnson, and often rumoured to the real power behind the man, was a founder member of The Conservative Friends of Russia.”
Those who need the links between Putin’s Russia and the Conservative Party spelling out – and I don’t just mean the chap who claimed I was (probably) clinically insane when I mentioned it a few weeks ago) – should watch this:
Now, I don’t know about you, but I love to receive a letter, or, if I’m feeling particularly modern, an email.
And lucky me, for the last few weeks I’ve received loads of both: from my energy provider, from my internet provider, from my mobile phone company, all of whom were writing to tell me that they aren’t making quite enough money at the moment, and that they simply must put their prices up.
You’ve received similar correspondence, no doubt.
Some of them try to make it look like they’re doing you a favour. “Now that we’re out of the EU,”, said one missive, “even though we could, we’re not reintroducing roaming charges!” Sub-text: Aren’t we the good guys?
Just to clarify that: the EU introduced a rule that said that mobile phone companies could not charge customers extra for using their phones when abroad, in an EU country. But now that we’ve “taken back control” having left the EU, that rule no longer applies to us.
And then, in a separate email: “Hello [always friendly with the bad news, see]. The cost of running our business has increased, so – much as we don’t want to – we simply going have to increase our prices. By 58%.”
Thanks! But since you and every Tom, Dick and Harry has put their prices up, I can barely afford to catch the bus into town, let alone travel overseas now.
Gas provider: “Us too! Sorry!”
Electricity provider: “Gosh, we wish we didn’t have to, but we have no choice (if we want to continue making more money than we need): us too!”
Repeat ad infinitum.
I don’t understand why one of them – just one of them – doesn’t stop and think: everybody else is putting their prices up, why don’t we pledge not to do the same, keep our prices low, rake up all the competitor’s customers and make money that way?
I hate to tell you this, but this could have been avoided. And I’m not just talking about Brexit, which remains (pun very much intended) the clearest example of a gullible population collectively shooting themselves in the foot. And I don’t wish to be all “I told you so” either.
In 2015, one of the core pledges in Ed Milliband’s manifesto was to place a cap on energy bills. But the good old, reliable British public decided to vote for David Cameron instead, because they didn’t like the way Milliband ate a sandwich.
“Imagine the chaos if Labour get in”, the red tops crowed at the time.
“Look at his stupid monolith with dumb statements engraved into it!” (They had a point there, to be fair.)
And now look around. Nice and calm and safe, isn’t it?
Remember how we all clapped and cheered for our brave NHS staff because of the way they (just about) coped with the Covid pandemic? And how, when given the opportunity to actually thank them by way of a pay rise, this Government decided not to?
Well, here’s the rub, no finer example of how those that rule us don’t give a flying fig for us: the Conservative Party’s 2019 manifesto promised to make NHS parking free for “frequent outpatient attenders and staff working night shifts”. But now, just as the cost of living crisis bites, free parking for NHS hospital staff has ended.
Meanwhile, as well as being able to claim their fuel costs back on expenses, each member of Parliament is entitled to one parking permit in the Palace of Westminster, free of charge.
It’s Saturday morning, and you know what that means around Dubious Towers: either I’ve written the next part of The Chain (spoiler alert: I haven’t) or I’m about to vent my spleen about something or other that has irritated me this week.
There’s been too much good news recently in my book, what with Biden winning the US election (Pah! So he says!), Dominic Cummings getting kicked out of No. 10 (I thought the news that he’s been offered the gig of turning on the Christmas lights at Barnham Castle was just too delicious to be true, but I hope it is), that a potential cure for Coronavirus has been found, and a new series of I’m a Celebrity…set not in the inhospitable Australian jungle but in what is apparently the UK equivalent: Wales, has started. Personally, I’m looking forward to week three, when the endurance test sees the remaining contestants have to sit through several hours of the Eistedfodd, politely applauding at yet another parade of children in national dress whilst placating someone’s Nana with platitudes about the quality of her home-baked Welsh cakes.
*Looks around for something to shout about*
How about Priti Patel? Nah, too easy. But just in case you’ve not followed the story: this week, a report was released at the conclusion of an inquiry into the conduct of the current Home Secretary, following the resignation of top civil servant at the Home Office Sir Philip Rutnam in March. Rutnam alleged staff felt Ms Patel had “created fear” within the governmental department through her bullying behaviour.
The inquiry was launched by PM “Shagger” Johnson, who placed trusted ally Sir Alex Allan at the helm of the investigation, and the results were, if not damning, then not flattering either.
The Ministerial Code says “…ministers should be professional in their working relationships with the civil service and treat all those with whom they come into contact with consideration and respect…harassing, bullying or other inappropriate or discriminating behaviour wherever it takes place is not consistent with the Ministerial Code”.
Surprise, surprise, Allam’s report found that Patel had broken the code governing ministers’ behaviour. It says that: “…[she has] become – justifiably in many instances – frustrated by the Home Office leadership’s lack of responsiveness and the lack of support she felt in the Department for International Development (Dfid) three years ago...The evidence is that this has manifested itself in forceful expression, including some occasions of shouting and swearing...This may not be done intentionally to cause upset, but that has been the effect on some individuals.”
(Let’s not forget, of course, that Patel has form when it comes to the Ministerial Code. I won’t go over it all again, but if you want to read something I wrote when these allegations first arose, you can do so here.)
Ah. “Not done intentionally”. There’s your get out clause, right there, which Patel seized upon. Cue a public apology which fooled nobody, where Patel, for once almost managing to contain that trademark smirk as she spoke, said that “…any upset I have caused was completely unintentional…” and that “…issues were not pointed out to her.”
Actually, Sir Philip Rutnam paints a different picture: “As early as August 2019, the month after her appointment, she was advised that she must not shout and swear at staff…I advised her on a number of further occasions between September 2019 and February 2020 about the need to treat staff with respect.”
The report, however, states that “…no evidence that [Patel] was aware of the impact of her behaviour, and no feedback was given to her at the time”.
Sir Rutnam was not asked to give evidence to the inquiry, which might explain that.
What we have here, of course, is a classic example of the NMA – that’s a Not-Meant Apology – which usually includes the phrase “I’m sorry if my actions caused offence…”.
There’s no “if” about it here, is there? Her actions did cause offence, people complained, an inquiry found that she had caused offence, so the element of doubt introduced by the hypothetical “if” is removed.
What I find incomprehensible is that were the busted politician, or whoever, to offer a full apology, devoid of get-out clauses, then they would almost certainly earn the respect of the majority of the public. We’d probably be willing to cut them some slack: they’ve admitted what they did, they’ve apologised, let them get on with their apparently invaluable work drowning desperate immigrants in the English Channel, and we’ll check back in a while and see whether they’ve actually learned anything from the whole experience.
And of course, the outcome of this was PM “Spaffer” Johnson rejecting the findings of the inquiry and announcing he did not think Patel is a bully and he has “full confidence” in her – you know, like he did in Dominic Cummings after his drive-up North during lock-down.
What is the point of launching an inquiry into a set of allegations, putting your own man at the helm, and then dismissing the findings because they weren’t the ones you wanted? Bit Trumpian, isn’t it? The inquiry cost the tax-payer money, which would have been much better spent being handed over to an MP’s brother-in-law’s best mate, who runs a newsagent in Bristol Temple Meads, but reckons he can secure all the PPE the NHS needs for the next ten years.
It makes me wonder: was the term “bully” the term used for a member of The Bullingdon Club? In which case it’s no wonder Johnson doesn’t recognise Patel as being one: there’s no way a woman of colour would ever be allowed to enter The Club unless they were part of the catering team.
And of course, the person who loses their job as a result of this is…you got it: not Patel, but Sir Alex Allan, who quit after learning that Johnson was going to take absolutely no notice of the report’s findings. Of course it wasn’t Patel: we all now know that the only way to get Johnson to fire you is to say something unkind about his girlfriend.
So perhaps Patel’s behaviour should be encouraged: let her bully, shout and swear at as many people as she likes. The law of averages says that of every, say, 10,000 expletives, one is going to refer to the mother of one of his children, and so it’s only a matter of time before she gets to the current one (whoever that might be at the time).
But we’re not talking about Patel this morning. I have something much more worthwhile to rant about: adverts.
Regular readers will know this is a topic which grinds my gears a lot, but usually it’s because of them appropriating (read: being given permission to use) a song I love for some poxy campaign or other.
But that’s not what is getting right on my tits at the moment; for a start it’s the fake sincerity of some of the adverts, the ones where they pretend they’re not really after your money, they really care about you.
I’m thinking predominantly of the tag-line which appears on the advertisements or any of the many gambling websites which now exist: “When the fun stops, stop”. This slogan was introduced by the gambling industry-funded responsible betting body Senet Group in 2015, but seems to be more prevalent recently.
And it’s bullshit.
By which I mean, the advice is sound, but do those using it really mean it? Do you really think Paddy of Paddy Power fame really wants you to spend less money with them? Do they heck. They want you to think they care, but of course they just want your money:
Because if everyone who gambles stopped betting the moment “the fun” stops, the gambling sites and bookies’ profits would be drastically reduced. The fun stops the moment you lose money. But those with addiction issues find it near impossible to walk away: play one more hand, and I can win that money back, they convince themselves. And then they lose that, but carry on, now even more desperate, and so on, and so on, until they’re broke, sleeping in a bus shelter and shouting at pigeons (who probably deserve it).
And I say this from personal experience: in my first year at Polytechnic Uni, I became friends with a chap who loved playing quiz machines and fruit machines. I would often stand at his side when he played the quiz machine in the Students Union bar, chipping in with an answer every now and then. And then he would shift to the fruit machine, and a big crowd would gather, because they knew if he was playing it, it was probably going to pay out. And I would play the one next to him, with a considerably smaller crowd (i.e. none) as my pound coins rattled through at a speed that would make Usain Bolt blush, until my pockets were empty. I was so constantly skint during that first year -not to mention thin, my God, I was thin – my parents were convinced that I had taken up guzzling heroin. My mate, however, would finally win the £20 jackpot and walk away. “Are you up?” I would ask; “Broke even, in the end,” he would reply, which is gambler’s code for “No, I lost, but it could have been worse.”
Coming from a screaming leftie, this may sound odd, given the relaxing of the rules about advertising gambling sites and shops on television happened under the last (as opposed to The Last, I hope) Labour government, but they got it wrong and it needs to be redressed.
This idea that companies advertising care about you goes further. During Lockdown #1 you will have seen countless adverts which included webcam footage (not that sort, you mucky pup), of employees of firms, and most of these were banks, it seemed. Unsaid, the message was this: “Look at us. We’re working from home, just like you. We’re the same, you and I. Because we’re so similar, perhaps you should think about maybe giving me some more of your money to look after…?”
As restrictions eased, those same companies and banks changed tack: now it was all about how they were doing their best to help you maintain social distancing should you ever, y’know, fancy popping into one of our stores/banks. Because they understood us and our concerns, they alone know what we want, and wouldn’t you just know it, whatever it was, they had it to sell you at a terribly reasonable price.
The tipping point came, I felt, in an advert I saw recently. Where previously, the effort to sell had been subtle and empathetic, suddenly there was a gear change with an advert which said – much as I did recently (without trying to sell you anything) – that people will be judging where you live when you’re doing your Lockdown #2 Zoom calls, and your kitchen is, frankly, shit, but it’s okay because we’ll sell you another shinier, newer one.
I preferred it when they were trying to be subtle and devious, I think, rather than blatant and exploitative. The only people who should be cashing in on Covid are those companies who have something to contribute to the cause, by which I don’t mean all of those handed contracts by the Government, of course.
It’s around this time of year, of course, that we all moan about Christmas adverts appearing on TV way too early, but I’m not an idiot, I understand the economy needs a massive boost, and purchasing Christmas presents and food and drink and all the rest is probably going to be the shot in the arm needed.
That was until I saw the Tesco ad campaign this week.
The ad shows lots of different people, confessing to their lockdown sins. I wouldn’t normally do this, because it’s a tad contradictory to slag an advert off but then give them free advertising, but I think it’s important that you know what I’m talking about here. So, here you go:
On the face of it, it’s a great idea: 2020 has been an absolute shit-show, so this year Santa isn’t going to be compiling his usual list of people who’ve been naughty and those who’ve been good. No, this year, we’re all absolved of our failings (see Priti, Santa says you’re off the hook too!), so long as we go to Tesco’s to buy our Christmas indulgences.
And it’s has an absolute banger (I was going say pig in blanket, but somehow that seems insulting) of a tune:
So there’s Tesco, encouraging us to visit their stores, and telling us that no matter what we did wrong this year, we’re forgiven.
There’s a flaw in this logic, isn’t there?
Perhaps the soundtrack to the advert should have been this:
Remember folks: there’s no naughty list this year! Fill your boots at Tesco!!
To be honest, the Christmas campaigns could have started in July for all I care because I think we’ve got bigger fish to fry this year, and that’s not the outrage racist Sainsburys shoppers have displayed at the not-as-posh-as-Waitrose supermarket chains’ having the audacity to feature a black family in this year’s advertising campaign…oh wait, not seen this?
OK, well, here’s their advert:
And here’s some of the delightfully enlightened comments left on Sainsbury’s Twitter feed:
There were many, many more, most of which were deleted when the tide of responses, thankfully, turned against them. Still, pretty safe to say that Chris, Chez and Tom are all hoping for a White Christmas. Enjoy shopping at Aldi, who have a much more palatable family of carrots in their adverts.
Anyway, I mean the still unanswered question about where we’re all going to be for Christmas in 2020.
As it stands, Lockdown #2 is due to finish on December 2nd, but the data at the moment is not showing any great improvement. And then you see headlines like this:
I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather our PM listened to the experts than battled them. We’ve been here before, of course, with the premature and contradictory easing of restrictions after Lockdown #1.
To me, if the experts say Lockdown #2 has to be extended, and that goes over Christmas, then so be it.
We’re not the most Christian of countries anyway, so Christmas is really just an excuse for families to get together. It can be done later, when things have got better.
I’ve never spent Christmas on my own, but if that’s what we’re told to do, then that’s what I’ll do. But don’t get me wrong: I love my family very much, and there’s nothing I would like more than to be able to go and visit my parents over Christmas. But if the choice is between doing that and possibly finishing them both off, or delaying seeing them for a few more weeks, then I, reluctantly, choose the latter.
Such a dramatic statement requires an equally dramatic soundtrack:
Now, I didn’t want to kick the weekend off with such a downer, so I had intended to include my favourite ever clip using that song. And it turns out it’s this, from Friends, when Joey and Chandler are trying to cope with living apart:
But what I wanted it to be was this, until I realised I had misremembered which song this auditionee was trying to perform: a different one to the one I’ve just posted:
After last week’s glorious hillbilly stomp from a slightly surprising location (the North East of England), more of the same this week, but with the sat nav controls set to the Midlands, and to Stourbridge, to be precise.
After the success of the indie power pop of their first album, the direction that The Wonder Stuff went in with their second album was a bit of a surprise, with the introduction of violinist and banjoist (is that what banjo players are called..?) Martin “Fiddly” Bell. He pops up quite a lot on Hup, their second album; this was the second single (a different version to the one on the album):
One of the other reasons there were even less posts than usual from me last week, was that I decided I wanted to rejig which day each series appeared on, and this one seemed to be more of a Sunday afternoon kind of post than a Wednesday afternoon one.
So here we are, and to move things forward a track by The Wonder Stuff, a band whose early stuff I love, but who I have kinda lost touch with since they reformed.
But in their heyday, they produced four albums, three of which I love, although the one I’m not fond of, “Never Loved Elvis” is the one that gave them the most commercial success, containing as it did chart smasheroos “The Size of a Cow” and “Welcome to the Cheap Seats”, the latter of which’s one redeeming feature is that it features the lovely and much missed Kirsty MacColl.
But it’s to second album “Hup!” that I want to lead you today, and specifically to an album track called “Can’t Shape Up”, an acoustic version of which resurfaced as a bonus track on the CD2 release of the aforementioned “Welcome to…” and which is, simply, quite beautiful.
Alright, alright, alright, already, we’re back, a week later than intended, but restored back to our rightful place on a Wednesday night. This was of course always the plan come 2017, and has absolutely nothing to do with Spurs getting knocked out of the Champions League and into the UEFA Europa League, where they’ll be playing their games on Thursday nights.
So those of you with exceptionally long memories will recall that at the end of The Chain #34,we were left with Malcom McLaren’s “Buffalo Gals” as the record to link to, and as usual the suggestions were many, varied and fell into on of a couple of different categories. They also include a veritable menagerie of different animals; not just buffalos, but cows, crawfish, ducklings, swans, an elk, a moose (and probably a mouse), an ostrich, and cartoon cats, canaries and flying squirrels. We’ll hear from (or mention in passing) all of these, whilst also visiting a sex shop and engaging in some Morris Dancing. Now that’s what I call fulfilling my diversity quota.
And before we go any further, I should point out that one of you gets very close indeed to guessing what the next record in The Chain – right act, wrong song, as is (apparently) so often muttered from the judges’ chairs on The X Factor.
So let’s kick things off by working through the more obvious bunch first – those that linked to “Buffalo”, and even these can be split down into two further sub-categories: those that link to Buffalo (the animal) and those that link to Buffalo (the place).
First up, is Jules from Music From Magazines who, bless him, doesn’t seem to want to let the Christmas feeling go just yet:
“…just one last go at a Christmas/NYE drunk sing along…”
Jules, you sent me this on January 3rd, mate.
“…’Go Buffalo’ is a cracking number by Like Swimming…”
“Someone who doesn’t like swimming is Sir Nose D’Voidoffunk as featured in ‘Aqua Boogie’ by Parliament, the 12″ version of which was only pressed on one side (no B side to enjoy once and then ignore ).”
“Now this is memory based, but a famous artist, entrepreneur and kiddy fiddler (hell he tried to entice my kid brother into his Roller on the Kings Road I later found out) wanted to release only single sided 45s on his UK label.”
It’s usually at about this point that I would start glancing round the bus to see if I have any chance of escape from the conversation.
“Jonathan King discovered Genesis with Peter Gabriel as a member which can only go to one place…”
I dunno about you lot, but the suspense is killing me.
“The The’s ‘Angel Of Deception’
I do the jokes. And I love the album that’s from, although some of the songs haven’t really aged all that well:
I can’t really scoff at this. Sitting in the bar at a family wedding around twenty years ago, I led the gathering in a heart-felt rendition of this. About seven times. What little hair I have left still bristles at the memory.
My favourite Robbie moment, however, was this, when he made a guest appearance in the BBC studios at the football World Cup 1998, and was ceremoniously taken down a peg or two by Martin O’Neill:
Anyway, let’s rewind, and start back at the beginning. Here, providing not only the first suggestion I received, but getting us going with a Double Linker, it’s The Great Gog:
“Buffalo is an animal that is farmed for its milk, as is a cow. The Wonder Stuff had a sizeable hit with ‘Size Of A Cow’. It just so happens that their lead singer is [popular rhyming slang] Miles Hunt who shares a surname with a racing driver who (rather tidily for this link) won the F1 Drivers Championship driving for McLaren in 1976.”
Mine too, Rob, though I have to admit to kinda losing track of them after the double-whammy of “Let Me Come Over” and “Big Red Letter Day”, so a nod towards some of their later stuff is much appreciated. (It’s as I add their name to the Tags and find their name doesn’t auto-enter that I find myself thinking: how the hell have I never featured anything from them before? I know I was going to post “Tailights Fade” a couple of months ago, but was beaten to it by the When You Can’t Remember Anything boys nicking in first. They’ll nick anything those two; you watch, they’ll be starting up a thread where they invite people to suggest records next.) (Psst! – you know I’m kidding, right chaps? And you know that because I’ve already suggested a couple over at your place.)
Speaking of obvious choices, as The Robster was, and since I mentioned When You Can’t Remember Anything, here’s Badger from the very same blog, with one of the three suggestions that I suspected we’d get this week:
“The obvious route is to ‘Buffalo Stance’ by Neneh Cherry.”
That song has had various segments of it lifted, quoted, or sampled on many different records over the years, one of my favourites is this, which I seem to associate with a break-dancing Transformer and I’m not sure why: was it in the video? Or used in an advert? Or did I eat far too much cheese before bed one night….?
In fact, many of the suggestions were pretty brief, once you take out all of the most welcome Christmas and New Year messages, along with all of the very kind things many of you said about this place which I’m far too modest to post here. For example, here’s Swiss Adam from Bagging Area:
“In ‘Burning Lights’, Joe Strummer sings ‘…you are the last of the buffalo…’ and it’s a wilderness years highlight so I’ll nominate that please.”
Over to George now, with a suggestion which comes pretty close to winning the Comment Showboat Award of the week:
“Buffalos have horns, a bony structure on the top of their heads. Another animal with a bony structure on its head is the elk (although they have antlers, but they are still bony), and the elk is also known as a moose. And from my childhood I can recall a lyric featuring the word “moose”, namely “there’s a moose loose aboot this hoose”, which is one of the few lyrics in a song by Lord Rockingham ‘s X1. I think the song is called ‘Hoots Mon’. And I bet everyone will recognise the tune once they play it.”
Could I ask my friends North of the Border to clarify something for us, he’s actually saying ‘mouse’ isn’t he….? Not that I’m going to disqualify George’s suggestion, because it definitely sounds like ‘moose’.
George included a link to a video clip to his suggestion, something which made him smile. You know where to go to find that. Instead, in case any of you in the UK were wondering quite where you recognise that song from, I would think it’s maybe from this:
Look out. Jules is back:
“Thanks George for the moose link! Casting my mind back to the cartoon series ‘Rocky and Bullwinkle’ about a flying squirrel and a moose (yes, I know) takes one inevitability to ROCKY with some great tunes. Let’s move on to the star Sylvester Stallone.
Sylvester’s work makes me feel mighty real but I preferred his work with Tweety Pie.”
Over now to Martin, who I think has posted here before, but forgive me Martin, I’m a little rusty. If this is your first time, then we’d all like to offer you a warm Chain Gang welcome, if not, then we’d all like to offer you a warm Chain Gang welcome back.
Anyway, here’s Martin’s suggestion:
“…On the basis that ‘Buffalo Gals’ is a perfect anagram of ‘Bagful of Las’ [and it is, I’ve checked], can I pitch for the ‘There She Goes’ by The La’s, please? Especially if I promise not to resort to anagrams to often…”
Just one more obvious-ish Buffalo link, and it’s another from me. I was about to write that this was one of my favourite records from the past couple of years, until I checked and found out it was released in 2010, and so now I just feel very, very old indeed:
Okay, here comes Dirk from Sexyloser and he’s gonna get all geographic on your asses:
“Loads of great musicians come from Buffalo in the state of New York, located on the eastern shores of Lake Erie at the head of the Niagara River: I trust it’s a fantastic place to go … I mean, I’ve never been there and certainly don’t want to go, but either way …! Where was I? Ah yes, musicians include John Lombardo and Mary Ramsey out of 10,000 Maniacs, so their ‘Anthem For Doomed Youth’ should be fitting, right?”
“Also Buffalo is a twin town to Dortmund, Germany and I’m sure you all know that Phillip Boa out of Phillip Boa and The Voodoo Club come from Dortmund. If memory serves correctly, he was featured before, but not with ‘Ostrich’, my favourite song of theirs: does that count? I hope it does….”
He has featured here before, Dirk, but you’re right, not with that song, so here you go:
Okay, something a little more…erm…traditional next. This suggestion comes from Jonny, who is definitely a first time poster here, so please all offer him a warm Chain Gang welcome.
The reason I know this is Jonny’s first time posting here, is because he’s an old mate of mine; we went to the same school although, inevitably, I’m a few years older than him so we didn’t know each other then, but we used to work together in the kitchen of a greasy motorway café masquerading as a family restaurant back in the late 1980s/early 1990s. I worked there every holiday throughout college, and ultimately for a year after I graduated, and it Jonny and I forged a great friendship. He was into photography and I enjoyed writing; together we cobbled together a spoof corporate newsletter called “The Crappy Eater” (which gives you a pretty good clue as to the identity of the place we worked in), where we basically took the piss out of and made up shit about our work colleagues. We “accidentally” left it laying around in the staff room one day and…well, some people found it funny, but some of the old dears who worked there were definitely not impressed. Somewhere, buried in a box, somewhere in my flat, I think I have a couple of the articles we wrote. I doubt many of you will be interested as you won’t know the people we’re winding up, but Jonny: if I can find them, I’ll email you copies.
Anyway, one of the reasons that Jonny and I got on so well, apart from the fact that we were amazingly cool gods of the burger griddle, was that we both shared similar music tastes of an indie-ish nature, and it was with Jonny that I ventured to London’s Brixton Academy back in 1992 to see Sonic Youth play promoting their “Dirty” album, ably supported by Pavement and Huggy Bear. Long term readers may recall me writing about it here a long time ago.
So when Jonny sent me a suggestion, I was expecting it would be a really cool blast from the past. I was half right: it was definitely a blast from the past, but also most definitely not really cool.
Over to you Jonny (and I should add, I have had to edit this because I’m not all that familiar with the libel laws so I thought it best I erred on the side of caution):
“So ‘Buffalo Gals’ takes me here (I know the connection is loose and somewhat obscure, but hear me out)” [S’okay, Jonny, I like my connections like I like my women: loose and obscure]
“…back to being a 13 year old, purple legged, lanky piece of shit who was forced on a yearly basis to take part in the school’s Country Dancing display…” [He was quite lanky. I suspect he may have played the part of the Maypole]
“Those Buffalo Gals going round the outside, for me, conjured up images of a scantily clad maths teacher I quite liked the look of prancing round my bed wooing me in for my first sexual experience. Sadly for me, that never happened.
My brief day/wet dream would then be shattered by my then form tutor kicking out the jams with his ‘Molly Dance’. Terrible song. Terrible timing.
But somehow that fucking ‘Molly Dance’ found its way into my record collection and remained there for many a year until in a moment of skint madness I flogged the entire collection of over 700 pieces of carefully chosen vinyl masterpieces for about the amount of a gas bill.”
Anyway, crowbar that in your chain and pull it.”
700 pieces of carefully chosen vinyl masterpieces…and this:
If I may fill in a couple of the blanks: the eponymous Ramblin’ Rod was in fact the Morris Dancing alter-ego of Jonny’s form tutor. And the Morris Van bit is “…a joke, that’s short for ‘vanguard'”, said Ramblin’ Rod in what was probably his only ever interview, which apparently took place at a party where “where Rod and friends were wassailing by dipping buttered toast in cider, then sticking the resulting “soldiers” in every tree trunk they could find.” Sounds like one hell of a party, right?
Before we get into the other big category – links to Malcom McLaren – let’s round up the other suggestions.
“Taking the ‘Girls’ theme [actually, it’s Gals, but since I made the same error in The Chain #34 I’ll let it slide] – a celebration of Girls everywhere; a wonderful piece of late 70s, possibly un-PC, Music Hall-esque nonsense:”
Readers of a certain age will remember (a different) Curious Orange from Lee and Herring’s “This Morning with Richard Not Judy” show; this was the best (quality, if not necessarily the funniest) clip I could find:
“I know that for a while Malcolm McLaren managed quite a famous band, though for the life of me I can’t remember their name Instead I’ll go down the producer route. Trevor Horn produced ‘Buffalo Gals’ and among his many (and varied) other credits is Belle and Sebastian’s ‘Dear Catastrophe Waitress’, from which I’d like to suggest ‘ Step Into My Office, Baby’.”
As I’m writing this on Wednesday evening, after Trump’s first speech, and after a load of new salacious rumours began circulating about him, I wondered if I’d be able to get through this post without making reference to it. I reckon if I can get passed a band called The Strangeloves without making a joke, I’ll have done well.
Ah well. Guess I blew it.
Back to McLaren, and here’s babylotti, who’s taking us on a trip over to New York:
“From Malcolm Mclaren, manager of New York Dolls for a minimal time, leads me to David Johansen. I’ll suggest Wreckless Crazy from him…”
Of course, the McLaren-managed band that you’ve all done exceptionally well not to mention, but which my brother would never speak to me again if I didn’t, are the Sex Pistols, so here’s one which is by no means one of their finest moments, but it’s one which we’ve both got a bit of a soft spot for:
But undoubtedly, the best suggestion of the week, the Comment Showboat of choice, came from Alex G from We Will Have Salad:
“About ten years ago, there was an ITV reality show called “The Baron”, the premise being that three celebrities attempted to curry favour in a little coastal village in Aberdeenshire in order to be elected as the new Baron of Troup. The show was a complete damp squib and buried in a late night slot, so there’s no reason for anyone to recall it, really. The only reason *I* remember it is that I happen to live close to the village where it was filmed, and a few of my friends appeared in it.
Getting to the point, the three celebrities flown in were Mike “Runaround” Reid (who won, and then almost immediately snuffed it), Suzanne Shaw from Hear’Say, and… Malcolm McLaren. See, there was some relevance to all of this. On those grounds I would have suggested Mike Reid’s reading (or reiding) of “The Ugly Duckling”, but I think that should really have linked to the last record in the chain rather than the current on, so…”
Whoa there cowboy! That’s a good enough reason for me to post what is not only the Comment Showboat of the Week, but is also the Cheesiest Record of the Week (and since we’ve already featured 2 Unlimited, that’s no mean feat):
That bit in brackets on the record label is a bit harsh, isn’t it?
Anyway, as you were Alex; you were about to proffer your actual suggestion:
“… so bearing in mind there’s no such thing as a guilty pleasure [there isn’t, there really isn’t, though sometimes you lot really test that theory], let’s have Hear’Say’s Betty Boo-penned signature hit ‘Pure And Simple’ instead.”
Otherwise known as “The song where it looks like someone’s lighting their farts in the video”:
Uh oh. Jules has climbed back on board. Quick everybody, avoid eye contact, stare at your copy of the Metro, pretend to make a phone call:
“Malcolm McLaren used to run a boutique on the King’s Road with Vivienne Westwood it was called SEX, most of the sex shops I used to frequent [Jules – have you ever heard the term “over-sharing”…?] mostly sold gentlemen’s magazines and ‘marital aids’ aka vibrators. Not the punk band but the American slang for a vibrator Steely Dan…”Deacon Blues”:
“…which as it happens contains the line ‘they call Alabama the crimson tide’. Crimson Tide of course is a fine film about a Russian/USA standoff… [no comparisons to be made with anything going on in world news there then…] …so:”
Mention of Vivienne got me thinking of other famous Westwood’s, and the first one that sprang to mind was former Radio 1 and 1Xtra hip-hop DJ and host of the UK version of Pimp My Ride, Tim Westwood, who happens to be the son of the former Bishop of Peterborough, the Right Reverend Bill Westwood. And since I grew up in and around that fine cathedral city, this seems appropriate:
Which should be the end, but George suggested this which, following a year of so many celebrity deaths, seemed an apt way to finish things off this week:
“Buffalo Gals was released in 1982. As was ‘Wham Rap!’ by Wham. (I find myself very ,very sad at George Michael’s death). I bought this in 1982, still have it, and still think it’s a toptastic pop song, it’s impossible to sit still when this plays.”
You know how I said I had a lot to get through last week? Well this week, even more so.
But before we get cracking, and to kill off any semblance of suspense, I’ll tell you that none of you – including me – picked the official record in The Chain. In fact none of you – including me – went down the same route as the person who picked the official one, which when you read it, will have you slapping yourself in the face and saying “Of course!!! Why didn’t I think of that!!”
First out of the traps, so to speak, this week was Charity Chic, proving once and for all why the name of this blog is very appropriate indeed, for I must admit, it was a song which I owned, albeit on a 90s compilation CD I’d picked up for something else entirely, but which also contained his suggestion:
“Dundee Unite fans despairingly sing “You’ve only got one shoe” to the socially deprived fans of Glaswegian clubs. When Gordon Strachan was manager of Celtic he was known as Chesney after a small red headed boy on the soap opera Coronation Street. So The One and Only by Chesney Hawkes please Jez. It’s bound to be the winner.”
It’s okay. It’s safe to come out now. The be-moled one has gone.
But hot on his heels, here’s S-WC from When You Can’t Remember Anything, who not content with giving us two suggestions in his first week, goes two better by giving us four this week. So, deep breath, here we go:
“Shoes were made for walking which immediately gives you ‘Fools Gold’….”
But before George has chance to flood me with multiple suggestions, can we give a warm Chain welcome to The Badger, who co-authors the When You Can’t Remember Anything blog with S-WC, who…erm…floods me with multiple suggestions:
“Whilst my esteemed colleague S-WC is probably right about Fucked Up, he should consider this: Kirsty MacColl famously covered ‘A New England’ by Sir Billy Bragg. Billy Bragg also sang about Shoeburyness in the classic A13. So you could go there…”
And we will, for I once got Janice Long to play that for me on her late night Radio 2 show, kicking off – and I know you’ll find it hard to believe I could be behind such a thing – an hour of themed songs about roads:
Moving on…no, wait…George hadn’t finished it seems…
“Then I thought of this: one of the other tracks from the Tropical Brainstorm album is “Não Esperando” which is Portuguese for No Waiting (and I didn’t have to look that up!), and the “waiting” bit leads to, yes, one of the 5 best songs ever recorded, Jesus Is Waiting by Al Green, the last track on the Call Me album, and 5-and-a-half-minutes of absolute genius.”
Next up is Alex G, author of the rather fantastic We Will Have Salad who is kind enough to give my Copy and Paste skills a bit of a break by just suggesting the one song:
“What would you find “In These Shoes?”. If you were a shoemaker, probably a last. And Bob Last was the man behind the legendary late-70s indie label Fast Product, which in its brief existence gave us the debut singles by The Human League (the only reason I know the word “sericulture”), The Mekons, Dead Kennedys and Gang Of Four. Nice one, Bob. My pick: the original Fast Product version of “Damaged Goods” by Gang of Four, which Mr Last also produced. And which is great.”
And here’s Marie, who rather wonderfully adds an element of creative writing into her suggestion:
“I imagined the title of Kirsty’s “In These Shoes?” as a response to an invite to a Northern Soul All-Nighter. When asked, “What’s wrong with them?”, she might have answered, “Ain’t No Soul (In These Old Shoes) (by Major Lance.)”
One of the things I love about running this post (I can’t really claim to write it), is that often I’ll be introduced to a record I’ve never heard before, and which I instantly love. There’s a couple of tunes up there I was unfamiliar with, but my favourite of those this week goes to:
Next, the return of another who I think we can now safely call a regular contributor round these parts. Here’s What’s It All About Alfie?
“This Chain could grow arms and legs, but it’s feet we’re interested in this week as feet live in shoes. A pair of shoes has two soles and following Marie’s thinking, how about Soul ll Soul with Keep On Movin’ (in these shoes) – a bit of a “lady” choice but gives The Chain balance perhaps?”
When this came out in 1989, my girlfriend at the time bloody loved it (in fact, we met because of it; she asked me to play it when I was DJ’ing one night, which I did, despite not being all that fond of it myself (No guitars, see..) The following week, I kept an eye out for her arrival, waited for her to get herself a drink and take up a spot kind of near the dancefloor, and then proceeded to play it for her again. Bingo! The oldest trick in the DJ’s Handbook.) but it wasn’t until a good few years later that the penny finally dropped with me about Soul II Soul and what an amazing record Club Classics Vol. One is:
“I shall ignore all this talk of shoes and go with the fact that there is a chain of newsagents called McColl’s (yes, I know the spelling is ever so slightly different). Therefore I think that a song about a newsagent would be appropriate. I can think of no better such ditty (indeed I can think of no other, either) than In The Middle Of The Night from the debut album from Madness.” (Nope, me neither. The Jam’s “Man in a Corner Shop” is about the best I can come up with).
Here’s The Swede, who picks up where George left off, linking to the title of the album from which “In These Shoes?” is taken:
“…‘Tropical Brainstorm’, which was co-produced by Dave Ruffy, drummer with The Ruts, one of the few groups of their time with the potential to rival The Clash in terms of passion and musical versatility. Certainly they were the only ‘punk’ band who got anywhere near The Clash when it came to reggae. ‘Give Youth a Chance’ is a good case in point.”
Which brings us to the last of the suggestions from you guys and girls, and, since we started with a slice of cheese from Chesney, ending with another slice of cheese seems appropriate. I’ll let Kay explain:
“My suggestion is Footloose by Kenny Loggins. Just the thought of Kevin Bacon dancing angrily in a warehouse brings a smile to my face. Can’t remember if he’s dancing to footloose or some other gem in the warehouse – but what a scene!”
Ok, cheese is a little unkind. I went to see that in the cinema when it came out in 1984, bloody loved it then, and bloody loved hearing it again now.
And, so to my choice. And mine is nowhere near as clever as all of yours (give yourselves a hearty pat on the back for another excellent week of suggestions, by the way). I’m giving you some breathy camp electro-clash-iness:
I’ve been struggling all week to come up with anything to play this week. And then, tonight, Friday, a day later than I usually start writing these posts, on my way home from work I found myself thinking about how the way that I get to hear about new music has changed so much.
Nowadays, I’m pretty much reliant on my blogging chums to flag new stuff to me; bar Jools Holland’s “Later…” there’s next to no music television programmes on in the UK these days (Friday night BBC4 documentaries excepted); or occasionally a friend will text, tweet or email me to ask if I’ve heard of someone or other, or to see if I want to go see someone I’ve never heard of live (the answer’s generally yes, as long as a) I’m not skint; b) I can track down at least one song that I like by the suggested act, and c) whether or not I value the opinion of the person asking or not).
When I was a kid, new music did not appear on the Multi-Coloured Swap Shop. Songs that were already hits appeared on Top of the Pops. And I had no idea what the Old Grey Whistle Test was, and would probably would have avoided it even if I did.
No, when I was growing up the only way I heard anything new was via the radio.
And that gave me an idea for tonight’s post. Four words to strike fear into the heart of any of you who endured my recent run of TV show titled posts. To misquote Martin Luther King: “I have a theme..”
So I got home, cranked the laptop up, opened iTunes and typed “Radio” into the search window.
427 songs were suggested.
Jesus, this thread is going to finish me off, I thought.
But fear not: by the time I’d eliminated all the songs I have by TV on the Radio, or by Radiohead, or were on a rather fine Radio Soulwax mix I downloaded recently, or any that were on the list because they were the Radio Edit of a single, I was down to a much more palatable amount.
So, let’s crack on, shall we?
And what better place to start than with this stone cold classic:
I’ve had a life-long love affair with R.E.M. Well, not quite life-long. I wish I could say I bought this when it first came out, but no. I first heard it on the third R.E.M. album I ever bought, a Best of (regular readers will perhaps be surprised to learn it wasn’t the first record I ever bought by the band) called “Eponymous”.
Radio Free Europe first came out in 1981, the band’s first single, later resurfacing as the opening track on their debut album “Murmur” two years later. I didn’t buy anything by the band until 1987’s “Document”, four years and five albums later, but I’d still like to think I was a little ahead of the majority of the pack here in the UK, where most were unaware of them until 1988’s “Green” album, interest growing somewhat by the time 1991’s “Out of Time” came out, and hitting absolute peak with 1992’s flawless “Automatic For The People”.
In the summer of 1989, I somehow found myself at quite a posh garden party, full of young darlings, public school types, who had been quite astonished that I didn’t know I was supposed to kiss the proffered hand of a young lady I was introduced to. Yes, THAT posh. (I shook it, an act which was greeted by quite the round of disbelieving guffaws.)
Anyway, feeling ever so-slightly out of place, I proceeded to get phenomenally pissed, and wandered into a barn where a DJ was trying had to tempt the fops onto the dancefloor. He played R.E.M.’s “Orange Crush” from their Green album, which pleased me (not enough to dance, mind), that was until the DJ took to the microphone and said: “That was R.E.M. a new, up and coming band from the U.S.of A.”
I couldn’t take it, marched over and started to berate him about how they were neither new nor up and coming, how they’d been around for years, how that track was from their sixth album and how that was the sort of thing he really should know if he was going to make it in the cut-throat world of DJ’ing, quietly omitting to mention that I’d only been a fan since the album before.
Musical snobbery, eh? Never gets you anywhere. Oh, what do you philistines know, anyway?
Moving on to 1993, and another of my favourite bands:
I don’t have much to say about this, apart from it being the lead single from their “Thirteen” album, that it’s a quite magnificent single from a quite magnificent album, which, for reasons that I don’t think I’ll ever really understand, saw the band completely fail to capitalise on their break-through album “Bandwagonesque”. If you don’t own them, kids, go get ’em. Or, if you hang around here long enough, I’ll probably end up posting every song from them both sooner or later.
Moving on to another artist whose work I’ve admired for a great many years:
This is from 1978, when Mr McManus was at his snarling best, so much so that following an appearance on US show Saturday Night Live in 1977, he found himself banned from appearing again.
Here’s the story: The Sex Pistols were booked to appear on the show, but for one reason or another – reportedly, a lack of visas – they couldn’t make it and Elvis and his band The Attractions were roped in. His record company wanted them to perform their current UK single “Less Than Zero” – which was about Oswald Moseley, leader of the fascist movement in the UK – but Costello was less keen, thinking the song wasn’t exactly going to resonate with an American audience.
So Costello took the stage, started to play “Less Than Zero” before calling proceedings to a halt a few bars in, announcing “I’m sorry, ladies and gentlemen, but there’s no reason to do this song here” before launching into “Radio Radio” instead.
Going so far off message was not appreciated by the powers that be; he wasn’t invited back until 1989. He did, later, however reference it on the 25th Anniversary Show, when, as Beastie Boys were just getting going on “Sabotage”, this happened:
Where do you go to top that? Well, you can’t, but I know someone who’ll give it a bloody good go:
Ironically, this track, written by popular rhyming slang Miles Hunt, was only ever released as a single in the US, and not here in the UK, where it remained just another track from their second, not-quite-as-good-as-their-first album “Hup!”. Quite how they got away with lines like “Bugger the plugger” is beyond me. But maybe I shouldn’t be surprised: many years ago I saw Phil Collins being interviewed after he had appeared in US hit TV show “Miami Vice”. Collins related how when he attended the script run through, he’d found that his character repeatedly used the phrase “wanker”, and Collins asked the producers if they knew what it meant.
“Sure,” came the response, “it’s English slang for ‘idiot’, right?”
Fortuitously, there was nobody better qualified than Collins to enlighten them as to the true meaning.
One of the other acts who were approached to appear on Saturday Night Live on that night Costello so infuriated the TV bosses, were this next lot. They declined the invitation, giving this as their explanation: “We don’t substitute for anybody.” Bonus cool points.
Denver is probably best known over here for a) Annie’s Song, b) looking like the Milky Bar Kid, c) his love of the Rocky Mountains, and d) his love of flying. Sadly, he failed to survive the occasion when he inadvertently combined those last two by crashing his plane into one of them.
Time for a musical interlude. Not that I’m saying what you’ve had so far wasn’t musical, just…this sounds like a musical interlude. And that’s a good thing. Particularly when it’s provided by a band who most people only know for one song, and that a remixed version of it, and even more so when to the best of my knowledge, this sounds like nothing else they’ve ever done:
Next up, a song which first came to my attention via a compilation album called “The Trip: Created by Saint Etienne”. It’s crammed full of Northern Soul, down-tempo numbers, lost and obscure nuggets from the 60s and 70s; if you’ve never heard it then I urge you to track down a copy.
I say it’s created by Saint Etienne, it’s more likely to just be Etienne stalwart and fountain of all pop knowledge Bob Stanley that compiled it. Bob once was kind enough to retweet a link to these pages once, so I reckon I owe him a name-check.
In the real world, knowing that a member of Saint Etienne had read one of my posts would earn me extra bonus points; alas it was predominantly about Bucks Fizz with a healthy portion of Shakin’ Stevens, so I reckon I’m probably in cool point deficit now. Ho hum.
But I digress. This is Douglas Dillard, banjo player (banjoist? banjoer?) and founder member of bluegrass outfit The Dillards, and Harold Eugene “Gene” Clark, singer, songwriter, guitarist and founder member of The Byrds.
Together, they came together under the inspired name of:
Two to go now, and it’s time for some 2 Tone ska. I don’t feature nearly enough of this kind of stuff on these pages, which some of you poor misguided fools may consider a blessing, so here’s an absolute belter to rectify that:
And so to the last one for tonight, and any post about songs with the word Radio in the title, inspired by my musings on how I rarely listen to the radio these days (6music at the weekends aside, and particularly former Fun Lovin’ Criminal Huey Morgan’s show of a Saturday morning, which is simply unmissable), would not be complete without this polished gem (it features and was produced by Trevor Horn, so it was never going to be anything but polished, now was it?):
What’s extraordinary about that record is that although it’s written from a future perspective, it was actually first released in 1977 (by Bruce Woolley and The Camera Club), before music videos were anywhere near the peak they would become. MTV wouldn’t even be launched for another four years, yet all that the song prophesizes – how polish, image, self-promotion, glamour and glitz would become the prevalent (X) factor, as opposed to, y’know, how good you are and what you sound like – has pretty much come true.
Which is a fairly bleak way to wrap things up, but there you go.