The Chain #50

It’s Saturday morning, and that can mean only one thing round Dubious Towers: Rant or Chain?

Any hope of building suspense is already ruined by the title of course. But believe me, after the humiliation of the press shots of Shagger Johnson looking at his most bumblingly unkempt on Thursday evening, and what his utter failure means for all of us here in the UK, it was by no means a foregone conclusion as to what would appear here this morning. Anyway, we’ve got all weekend until the announcement we’re all now expecting, so there’s plenty of time for me to cobble something together.

So. The Chain. We ended last time with this as the source record:

We were a little thinner on the ground than usual this time around, which I wasn’t especially surprised about, because there’s not a lot to work with there, is there? So hats off to all of you that contributed.

As you know, what I try to do with these is to bring your suggestions together into, if not an actual narrative, then some sort of cohesive whole, so that it’s not just me going “And here’s so-and-so’s suggestions”. And that’s what I’m going to try to do this time, but as many of the songs were related to other songs with years in the title, I figured I’d slip those in every now and then, in their true chronological order.

But first, a little tune, the title of which perfectly describes that Pumpkins source song title:

Look, I know I say this quite a lot, but not all Quo records are of the chugga-chugga three chord boogie variety. A Year is taken from their Piledriver album where they had almost permanently settled on their winning formula, but this is a far more bluesy affair, with a bridge which nods back to their psychedelic days. Seriously, give it a listen.

I’ll be using any songs which simply link to the word “year” as an alarm to warn you it’s about time we went time travelling. If you think about it, it’s a really clever way for me to crowbar all of the ones I thought of into the narrative, and isn’t a bit crap at all.

Ok, so it’s time for some time travel, and we’ll head back to the earliest of the yearly-titled suggestions. Care to hop aboard?

And we’re heading back to 1959 for this bit of flamboyant gothness, which, just as A Year doesn’t sound like Quo, so this doesn’t sound like a Sister of Mercy record, it sounds more like a Jim Steinman composition (checks this: it isn’t, but I had no idea that Sisters mega-hit This Corrosion is a Steinman song, and he has a co-writing credit on Dominion/Mother Russia. Seems he rubbed off on Andrew Eldritch. (Not like that, you mucky lot!)):

Anyway, that was suggested by…erm…me, too. (Note: not #MeToo). I suppose I’d better let some of you lot play, hadn’t I?

Ok, so let’s kick off proper with songs which can be linked to the band name, and for a starter, here’s Rol from My Top Ten:

“Pumpkins are gourds.

So I’ll go with The Gourds and their cover of Gin n Juice by Snoop Dogg. (Or Lion. Or whatever he’s calling himself this week.)”

Takeaway salesman?

“You could also have Cucumber Castle by The Bee Gees,” Rol continues, “although it is pretty awful (and I like the Bee Gees).”

Rol is right, of course. I like the Bee Gees too. And that really is not good.

As an aside, for those of you old enough to remember them, was it just me that thought Barry Gibb looked like the blue one (a lion?) from 1970s kids TV show Animal Kwackers?

And you never saw them together, did you? (as I believe it is customary to say when making this kind of joke.)

Anyway, sorry Rol. You were saying?

“Melons are also gourds. Apparently. Which might explain why The Smashing Pumpkins came up with one of the worst pun album titles ever created.”

He is referring, of course, to the album from which our source record is lifted, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. But watch yourself Rol, now you’ve mentioned puns, I have a nasty feeling about where you’re going with all this, since way back in The Chain #32 this very topic came up and I ventured The Beach Boys’ Gourd Only Knows and Teenage Fanclub’s Gourd Knows It’s True and absolutely nobody noticed.

“And then there is…” Rol innocently continues:

Phew. No puns then.

Whilst we’re on all matters gourd-related, here’s the ever reliable Stevie from Charity Chic Music:

“Getting in early with The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead by XTC a song I once heard played at a funeral.”

This, I think, deserves some further explanation. Was the coffin much bigger at the top than the bottom? Did the cremation take ages and start from a single, strategically placed candle? I think the world needs to know.

God, I love a good harmonica. I sense a new idea for a (probably quite brief) series.

And since Rol mentioned the album name from whence our source was ripped, here’s The Great Gog:

“I’ll go with the fact that 1979 is taken from the album Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness, and linger on the last word albeit with a different adjective. So that will be The Saw Doctors and Exhilarating Sadness.”

Whoa! What was that and where did it come from?

That, good people, was the sound of young people making music. I know, seems a bit out of place round here, doesn’t it? It was also an artiste which links to the word “year”, which means it’s time to hop in our time travelling machine which looks remarkably like a more famous fictional one but which, for legal reasons, is called something completely different. I don’t know. Haven’t given it much thought.

How about: This Is Travelling in Time and Space? That’ll do.

Hop into TITTS and we’ll be off.

(I am 51 years old.)

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And we’re landing back in 1966, for the first of several suggestions from Pat from PhonicPat who gives us our obligatory Half Man Half Biscuit song of the month (and a bit):

Since we’re already in Pat’s charming company, he’s given us another couple of songs which link to the source band’s name, thankfully devoid of gourd-related puns:


Allow me to squeeze another couple in. Firstly, here’s legendary jazz pianist Fats Waller:

The really rather ace:

The considerably less ace:

And if I’m chucking a load of Smash references in, I may as well throw a Pump in too:

…which leads me to this piece of genius:


Here we go:

And here we are in 1969, the year when all the cool people were born, and I’ll leave you in the hands of babylotti for a while:

“Immediately, I don’t know why, but 1979 made me think of 1969 by The Stooges…”

“…then 1970 by them too….”

Whoa there cowboy! Let’s finish off 1969 before we go gallivanting across the years.

And here’s Pat (who also suggested The Stooges) with another suggestion:

When I was feverishly searching t’internet to try and find some more tunes, I stumbled across this rather surprising entry:

And I don’t suppose we can really leave 1969 without giving this an airing, even if it is rather well known that the digits in the title don’t actually refer to a year, but to something altogether much ruder:

And since we’re on the edge of the 1970s, we may as well let babylotti finish what he started with his Stooges talk and drag us into a slightly more recent age:

“…then 1970 by them too….”

“…then I remembered the great cover version of that song by Flesh for Lulu.”

This one?

Here’s a thing. About fifteen years ago, Rocco from Flesh For Lulu was in a fly-on-the-wall property documentary called A Place in Spain: Costa Chaos. It turned out to be one of those excruciating, uncomfortable shows that should go down in legend, but it seems only me, and me good mate Val who I was living with at the time and who watched this with me, remember it.

Actually, not quite us two. For fortuitously, someone has posted most of the episodes on YouTube (I think one is missing), but if you have time to spare, then I’d thoroughly recommend you spend it watching this (first episode only included here):

Seriously, when the commentary says things like “But neither of them seems to have considered how they’re going to pay for it”, you know you’re watching car crash telly. Quite how I’ve managed to get writing this finished with such a distraction, I’m not sure.

Over now to a couple of suggestions linked to Smashing Pumpkins main man Billy Corgan, and first off the boat is Hal:

“Billy reputedly had a fairly healthy self-regard, which reminded me of the opening couplet to ‘San Francisco Fat’ by personae non gratae NOFX

And in a similar vein, here’s Swiss Adam from baggingarea:

“Smashing Pumpkins singer and professional misery Billy Corgan played on New Order’s 2001 comeback album, on the song Turn My Way- which as songs go on that album is pretty good and better than anything on the follow up Waiting For The Siren’s Call.”

He’s not wrong:

He also co-wrote this (Billy Corgan, not Swiss Adam):

Let’s shift ever so briefly to 1973, just so I can post this, which is ruddy magnificent:

And just as I thought I was running out of suggestions, here Devonian with three on the bounce:

“Remember how Smashing Pumpkins had to add a “The” to make sure we all understood that they were referring to the excellence of said squashes, rather than the act of setting about them with hammers? That made me think of songs by other bands with similarly enthusiastic names, such as… da-da-da-DAH…”:



Here’s Pat, back with another related suggestion:

“The Sonic Youth version of The Simpsons theme with the link The Smashing Pumpkins, The Homeralooza episode which included the following conversation

Billy Corgan: Billy Corgan, Smashing Pumpkins.

Homer: Homer Simpson, smiling politely.”

And so on we march to 1979, and I’ll hand over the reins to Rigid Digit:

“1979 could be a very broad subject. Arguably, I could offer a list of the best songs of 1979 (and there were many – it was a fine fine year in the world of Pop).

A personal memory – 1979 is the first year I really started taking note of pop music, and on an episode of Top Of The Pops saw Dave Edmunds performing Girls Talk – that says more to me about 1979 than Alan Sunderland scoring a last minute winner for Arsenal.”

Sorry, you lost me with that last bit. But here’s Dave anyway:

“Written in 1978, Tom Robinson had a go at guessing the state of the nation 18 months into the future. Not all (any?) of his predictions came true – and certainly not the one about Spurs beating Arsenal (they lost 5 Nil).”

Times have changed, matey, what happened last weekend…? Oh, yes, this:

Just saying.

The Beard doesn’t know when to stop using an analogy, so I’ll let it slide:

“Alan Sunderland scored the winning goal for Arsenal in the 1979 FA Cup Final.”

Don’t make me post that football clip again….

“Field Music are the best band from Sunderland.”


“The Noisy Days Are Over by, erm, Field Music.”

And here’s C from Sun Dried Sparrows:

“There’s the band Death From Above 1979, although I believe they often drop the 1979 bit from their moniker, it is a bit of a mouthful after all… anyway, this leads me to think of ‘Let’s Make Love And Listen To Death From Above’ by CSS, fronted by the marvellously named Lovefoxxx.”

I thought Lovefoxxx was your dating profile name?

It would be rude at this point not to feature some actual Death From Above 1979, so you can decide whether or not you wish to make love to them:

Poor old Willie, having to churn out albums of covers to pay that tax debt back.

But wait: that’s a **TIME TRAVEL KLAXON ALERT **

Which takes us to our last few records, all suggested by yours truly:

…and this odd little thing I stumbled across:

..and this, from Pat:

…and finally, this, which I was very surprised that Swiss Adam didn’t suggest:

I say “and finally”, but what I actually mean is “and finally from the past”, because what’s the point in having a saucily-named time travelling machine if we can’t go into the future as well as the past?

Off we pop:

To here:

Which just about wraps it up.

Oh wait. Here’s Rol again:

“And then there’s Little Red Courgette, obviously.”


Which just leaves me to announce what the actual next record in the real Chain is, and it’s this:

“The pumpkin patch featured in the cartoon strip ‘Peanuts’ which featured Charlie Brown, so…:”

Which just leaves me to ask for your suggestions for songs which link to Charlie Brown by The Coasters, to be submitted via either the Comments function on this page, along with a brief explanation of your link, or if you prefer anonymity that you ultimately won’t be afforded, by email to

More soon.

The Chain #49

I promise that I’m not going to start all of my posts with these words, but following the last instalment of The Chain I had an email from from long-time reader and Chain Gang contributor George who said that he was “toying with idea of making a cd of Chain 48”. (To any of our younger readers, CDs are what we used to record music on to and listen to music from before streaming and making playlists became things.)

Anyway, I thought this was an excellent idea, because I have a playlist for every edition of The Chain, the purpose of which was partly so that I could revisit and relive the good times and the bad, but mostly so that I could check whether something had already been suggested and therefore was precluded from being nominated again. You may have noticed I’ve been rather lax about this since The Chain returned, and that’s not going to change: I figure in these days of Trump & Johnson, of global pandemics*, international recessions, corruption at a governmental level, and starving children (it was The Chain or a Rant today), there’s more important things to worry about than duplications in The Chain back catalogue.

(*Sit down, New Zealand, I’m not talking about you)

Anyway, the point I am trying to make is that to get all of #48’s songs onto one CD would take a lot of editing choices, so I’d love to hear which songs made the cut – even more so should you decide on making one after you’ve read this one because this week (I say that like I post these every week, rather than every six weeks or so) we have just shy of 4 and 3/4 hours worth of tunes to get through, and I don’t think there’s a duff choice amongst them. Some ropey ones, yes, but duffers, no. But then Kay hasn’t suggested anything this time, so… maybe I should crack on.

Oh, and George (Incoming obligatory oblique 1970s TV reference that about 80% of you won’t get): I’m sorry but we aren’t able to return any drawings sent in, but yes, it is a big one, no I’ve never seen one quite that shape before, and no I don’t need you to send me a photo, but thank you for the offer.

OK, so let’s start as we usually do with a reminder of the source material this time around, which was this:

As you might expect, we have a lot of tunes related to Talk(ing), some related to Fear of Music (the album that features on), and then what I believe is the collective term for lots of suggestions on a similar theme: an absolute fuckload of songs linked to a specific city, or the words cities or city. As always, I’ll try to put them in an order that makes some kind of narrative sense (you’ve noticed I do that right?) but if you’re planning on doing yourself a playlist of these, I’d be interested to see if you think you’ve done better (NB: no I wouldn’t. Keep it to yourself, thanks very much).

Not quite first out of the traps this time was Swiss Adam from Bagging Area who, as he will explain, suggests a tune which simply demands to go first:

“Cities should have a theme and luckily we have an ahead of its time piece of ice cool euro dance that found a second life in the Balearic sounds of ’88 and thereafter:

Now, I don’t profess to know anywhere near as much about that there dance music as our Swiss, but I do know that got used on a tune recorded by David Russell Lee, who used to be known under the stage name of Joey Negro. Lee also recorded under many other pseudonyms, including this one, which throws in a Queen sample for good measure, and I think is what Swiss means when he says “thereafter”, given this came out in 2001:

But since we’re already going off on tangents, here’s a factoid for you (lifted from Wiki, so large pinch of salt at the ready): In 1993, Lee was approached by Take That’s label with a view to working together. Lee suggested they covered an old hit by Dan Hartman, which hadn’t been a hit in the UK but which had become a popular club track in the house music scene. They did as suggested, replacing Loleatta Holloway from the original with – who else? – Scottish songstress Lulu and lo! the boy band’s second number one in the UK was born.

Anyway. Cities. I think next I’ll hand over to Rigid Digit from Stuff & Nonsense to get us back on track:

“Knowing too much about 3rd Division Punk Bands (as I do), the phrase “Cities” immediately brought forth [this]…It’s OK, in a mohican wearing punky thrashing type way, but probably not what you’re looking for.”

Turns out, that’s quite the accurate description. I’m also imagining a purple and black furry jumper:

I gather Westlife are planning to do a cover of that as their comeback single.

Well, we seem to have strayed into the territory of songs with the word Cities in their title, so here’s another couple of suggestions. Firstly, C from Sun Dried Sparrows who says “I’m just plumping for the very first thing that comes into my head as a kind of quick subconscious response and it is…..:”

…which is bound to lighten the mood.

Let’s see what George can conjure up this time:

“Taking the cities from the song, to Manchester City, whose best English footballer was Colin Bell, whose birthday is February 26th, the same date as Michael Bolton…[Oh, Jesus, no…. – Ed]…wait for it…Fats Domino [Better – Ed]…and Johnny Cash, so my song is…:”


I think at this point I should hand back to Rigid Digit, who gave me a whole host of acts who had recorded songs called In The City, the first of which was also suggested by Martin of New Amusements fame:

..and this (just Rigid Digit now):

and (which, if I was still giving points out, would earn a couple for being in one of the coolest films ever, but I’m not, so it won’t – and in any event, I’d have to deduct points for the artist having also been in The Eagles and Ringo Starr & His All Starr Band, surely the least cool bands ever):

and this:

Now. Regular readers will know that I have deep-seated hatred of songs being appropriated for advertising purposes, as documented in my S.S.O.S. (Stop Spoiling Our Songs) series. For the avoidance of doubt, I’m with the late, great Bill Hicks on this one:

Here’s a tune which I’ve been meaning to post for a while, and which samples Hicks and explains my thoughts better than I ever could, and which I must credit my old mate Dum Dum (not his real name) for bringing into my life:

See, it’s bad enough when songs we love are appropriated to sell something, but surely it’s even worse when an act we love pops over to an overseas land in the hope that those back home will never find out what they’ve done – and I’m looking at you Bacon and Clooney – isn’t it?:

Mostly because Joey did it too:

But I digress, again.

Rigid’s next suggestion is this: “…or even Starship who built this city on sausage rolls.” Now, we all know what he is obliquely referring to, and that’s the first of the last two Christmas #1s here in the UK. In a week where Tory MPs voted down a motion which would have ensured that children from poor families don’t starve because of the various lockdown restrictions, I thought it probably best if I didn’t post a free link to a song which tried to help. Instead, here’s the (extremely unfunny) video (and yes, this got to #1 in the UK):

…and here’s the song they are referencing:

To be fair, Rigid does offer up a vastly superior song, the title of which references the same source:

So before we set off on a little journey of all the songs mentioning actual cities in their titles or their lyrics (and there’s lots of them), we’ll have a look at all of the suggestions – most of them are mine, admittedly – which feature the word City in the title or in the artiste name. But before we do that, let’s get all of the other ones mopped up.

Here’s the Devonian with, I think, my favourite explanation ever:

“A geographical link… not going off “Cities” though, but rather the fact that the bassist in Talking Heads was the esteemed (albeit not by David Byrne) Tina Weymouth. That got me wondering whether there are any other groups with bassists named after gentrified Dorset coastal settlements. But I couldn’t find any, so I had to settle for a couple of singers instead. Therefore I give you Shelly and Karen Poole and…”

“…which is great and you know it is really.”

Actually, I’m more of an ‘I Am, I Feel’ kinda guy, as it goes, but that’s enough about why I can’t go on public transport without a responsible adult in tow anymore.

“Whilst Devonian was struggling for Dorset-named bass players to link to Tina Weymouth,” pipes up The Great Gog, “I found myself thinking of a feature of said coast that is named in a song – namely the theme tune to children’s TV show Portland Bill (which must have been 20 years old when my kids watched it on satellite telly in the early 00’s).

I can’t say this rang any bells with me at all, but I have managed to track down a copy of the writer of the theme tune in question, playing…well, it:

Next up is PhonicPat who, undeterred by suggesting the worst record last time out, has come up with a load of absolute bangers this time, starting with this, which kinda follows on given that it’s “made up of the rhythm section of Talking Heads” who just so happen to be husband and wife combo Chris Frantz (drums) and Tina Weymouth (bass and renowned gentrified Dorset coastal settlement):

Talking Heads “…tried to continue without Byrne and released the ‘No Talking Just Heads’ album” Pat continues, “featuring collaborations with Debbie Harry, Andy Partridge and Shaun Ryder amongst others therefore:”



And Pat isn’t finished there:

“[A] David Byrne/Talking Heads link” (as Byrne features as guest vocalist on this):

Now, there’s two things to say about that: firstly Byrne mentions New York at the start, and we’ll be coming on to that city in the fullness of time; and secondly these PhonicPat sponsored words: “…(along with saucy video)“.

In the name of research, strictly so that you don’t have to press play on this next video, you understand, I have watched this, several times, and can confirm that no matter how much you might slow it down or rewind and watch again, whoever had the job of censoring out the wobbly bits did a fine job. Still, best you approach with caution, eh?

Remind me in a bit to give you a related Pet Shop Boys fact, will you?

Since we seem to have landed on band-related suggestions, George is back again:

“From Talking Heads to the Talking Book album by Stevie Wonder, and the track:…”

And moving on to other suggestions about links to the band name we have Alyson from What’s It All About? who says: “We’ve had Dollar [last time out] so in the same vein can I suggest….”

Whoa there tiger! I need to explain the “in the same vein” bit, because Dollar should definitely not be bracketed with The Fizz so lightly. Oh no. For post-1980s fame The Fizz split into two factions: one containing original members Cheryl Baker, Mike Nolan and (sighs) Jay Aston, the other containing Bobby Gee and an almighty war broke out about who should use the name Bucks Fizz to promote their cruise ship wares. And amidst this row, up popped former member of Dollar and never member of the Fizz, David Van Day who, when he wasn’t trying to be the Lawrence Fox of his day and appear all outrageous by dumping his girlfriend live on Channel 5’s The Wright Stuff, elected to appropriate the name Bucks Fizz, go on a tour, sing a couple of their songs and trouser all the cash. The twat.

Anyway, here’s Alyson’s Fizz choice:

What I love about Alyson’s choice is that she could have picked the original of that, by The Romantics, but such is her devotion to ladies having their skirts ripped off as part of a Eurovision dance routine, she simply had to plump for a bit of Fizz. Kudos.

No idea what I’m banging on about? Here you go, complete with withering intro from the much missed Terry Wogan:

Genius pop music. And I mean that.

Alyson has some other suggestions linking to Talking Heads’ name, namely:


Almost time to set off on our tour of cities, have you got your packed lunch and your waterproof coat? Ok, I’ll stall for a bit with some frankly rather clever suggestions.

The source record this time features on Talking Heads’ Fear of Music album, which takes us into the dark territory of phobias. Or, as the Devonian puts it: “Cities is from the album Fear Of Music… which is a Phobia… which is a song by Flowered Up”

It sure is:

Which leads us neatly on to Hal’s suggestions: “Didn’t Cage the Elephant release an album called Melophobia?” he asks, rhetorically. Well, yes, yes they did. And in case you were wondering, Melophobia is the correct technical term for having a fear of music, so here’s something from the album of the same name:

I’ve always avoided them because, well, I thought (and still do) that they have a terrible name, but that’s not bad so maybe I need to reassess.

Anyway, Hal isn’t finished yet: “Which leads us to Phonophobia: The Second Coming by Extreme Noise Terror. Or perhaps not…”

Too late, you’ve said it now.

Phonophobia: The Second Coming is an album by Extreme Noise Terror, and this is one of the songs on it:

Peelie would be proud.

How do you follow that? With this:

Thank goodness for Rol from My Top Ten who kindly steps in to suggest this, which in his eyes “seems an obvious winner”

Frankly, if we’re going to mention bands with the word City in their name, I don’t think we can justifiably omit this lot:

“The other obvious one”, Rol continues undeterred, and I’ll let him carry on because I can’t quite work out where else to place this, “is to jump to Radiohead (as they took their name from a Talking Heads song) and Street Spirit (because there are lots of streets in cities…)

He’s not wrong, there are. I counted at least seven near where I live just the other day, and I think I may have missed some.

I hadn’t finished with bands with City in their names. This lot are definitely less renowned than Mr McKeown and the gang (Bay City Rollers, not Radiohead) and are named after 2000AD’s Judge Dredd comic strip. Play this one loud:

And so we move on to songs with the word City in the title (that aren’t called In the City). You know how until that last little spurt I’ve hardly suggested anything so far? Consider that ended. Eyes down and here we go with the almost entirely forgotten about:

…to an often overlooked gem:

…and the never to be forgotten:

A sort of clever one: this was released on City Rockers, a label synonymous with the electro-clash sound of the early 2000s:

And we shouldn’t overlook this brace of bangers:

…which almost inevitably leads us here:…

…which leads me to this spoof record, but it’s a spoof of a song which doesn’t have a city in it’s title, but I’m sure you’ll get it:

And finally, I was very surprised that absolutely nobody suggested anything from PJ Harvey’s magnificent Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea album, so I guess I’ll have to:

I’m stalling because it feels slightly disingenuous to be suggesting we go on a world tour just as so many cities around the world are locking down to prevent travel and the potential spreading of the Corona virus, so can I ask that you all don your face masks, smear yourselves in hand sanitiser like it’s goose fat before you attempt to swim the Channel, don’t stand so close to me and we’ll be off, safely.

But where to start? “Something from Gerry Rafferty’s very fine City To City album perhaps?” pipes up Rigid Digit again, which seems a perfectly good suggestion, and I’ve plumped, somewhat obviously, for the title track:

And it’s to Rigid Digit that we turn to yet again as we herald the start of The Chain World Tour which, given some places like my beloved Wales have gone into circuit-breaking lockdown today, I must say I feel a teensy bit guilty about, but, nevertheless, here we go.

Truly, there can only be one song to kick this off, and as Rigid quotes: “London, Paris, New York, Munich.  Everybody talk about…:

“I was beaten to M,” moans The Great Gog, “but other songs name-checking a number of cities that sprang to mind were…:”


Not forgetting, as Martin from New Amusements points out, a song which (apart from the Hang the DJ bit) perhaps most perfectly encapsulates where we are right now:

Ok, let’s start, with a whistle-stop tour of the UK. Here’s The Robster:

“I was going to suggest the wonderful Theme For Great Cities but Swiss Adam beat me to it! So I decided to think about songs ABOUT cities. Then I realised I’d be suggesting about 4 million songs and you’d hate me more than I’d hate myself! So in the end I plumped for one city. It was going to be Newport, but the only songs about us are parodies and parodies of parodies. So I chose our neighbours instead and came up with…:

I’m not sure why The Robster thinks this lot only do parodies. Funny songs, of course: it’s their stock in trade. I mean, sure this one is a parody, but it’s the only one I know which actually mentions The Mighty ‘Port in it’s title, and (sorry Rob) from the short time I lived there, seems wholly accurate to me:

Let’s head up to Birmingham next, and I’ll hand the reins back to Swiss Adam for a moment, for he is quoting lines from the source material to guide us to our next destination.

“Birmingham ‘lots of rich people’….” (although I think Byrne was probably referring to B’ham, Alabama.)

For those of us old enough to remember, it’s hard to forget when they fell foul of a Government clause of the 1981 Broadcasting Act which prohibited the broadcast of direct statements by representatives or supporters of 11 Irish political and paramilitary organisations. The restrictions were part of the Thatcher government’s desire to prevent Sinn Féin from employing the media for political advantage.

Yeh, I know. Dry subject.

What this meant in practical terms was that when, in 1987, they appeared on Friday Night Live , a Thames Television programme hosted by Ben Elton, they played Streets of Sorrow but the broadcaster cut to an ad break before they got to Birmingham Six.

Ridiculous as the rules were, a loop-hole meant that we were allowed to hear what Sinn Fein (the political arm of the IRA) had to say, but we could not hear them spoken by a member of the political party. Generally what this meant was the words were read by an actor with a plummy Home Counties accent, but the ludicrousness of the situation was highlighted here, on The Day Today:

This next song actually mentions bombing in Birmingham, although it means it in the “not going down to well at a gig” sense, rather than the more literal interpretation:

In these times of Tiers and Lockdown, I’m not sure we’ll get any better advice than to ‘start drinking til we’re blind’ (again, metaphorically of course – I don’t want any of us to end up in one of those adverts asking people to sponsor a puppy); I know it’s what has got me through writing this post, for a start.

“This mentions Birmingham, Alabama”, offers PhonicPat, and he’s not wrong, it does:

But we’re not quite ready to go trans-Atlantic, because here’s The Robster again:

“I have another one, this time referring to my Devon roots. The nearest city to where I grew up was Exeter – so:”

What I love about IDLES, apart from their records, is that they’re so bloody angry about everything, even their name is in capital letters like they’re shouting that too.

Catchphrase time! Well, if you’re having that, then I’m having this, a song about the nearest city to where I grew up, but where IDLES are VERY ANGRY! about how shit Exeter is, The Long Blondes are just a wee bit disappointed with how dull Peterborough is:

Staying in the UK, here’s Stevie from Charity Chic Music who takes us (much) further Up North:

David Byrne was born in Scotland – Dumbarton to be precise.  So the link is obviously:”

…which not only gets added to the ever-growing pile marked: ‘Must Investigate Further’, it also allows me to include this, which the title obviously references:

Since that also mentions Berlin, we may as well pop over to Europe, y’know, whilst we still can, without having to incorporate a two-week stay in a car park in Kent. Here’s another suggestion from Martin:

Well, this all seems to have got rather gloomy rather quickly. But I have an idea! Let’s pop over to the former capital of Turkey to liven things up a bit:

It became very apparent as I was sifting through the suggestions that there were two cities which featured more than any other, so, after a spot of self-isolation, we’ll pop back to the one in the UK: That London. And first up is another suggestion from Phonic Pat which takes us on a nice little (if expensive) tour of the city:

Here’s Swiss Adam again, quoting lines from the source record:

“…a small city, dark in the day time…”

…and suggesting this absolute shoe-in:

And here’s Martin again with two further capital suggestions:

“For when one is tired of London, one is tired of life, right?” adds Martin. Try telling Alan that:

Obligatory Alan Partridge clip? Tick!

One more from Martin, “…because I love them so…” (me too, mate, me too):

Sticking with Martin’s stream of suggestions, let’s hop over to the other city which seems to be mentioned in song titles more than any other:

“Decidedly not a cover of Ol’ Blue Eyes”, Martin adds. Well no: there’s a more liberal use of the F-word than Sinatra ever committed to record for a start. Plus, without wishing to be pedantic (he says as he is about to do just that), the Sinatra song Martin refers to is actually called Theme from New York, New York, so there was never any real danger of confusion. This next one though, less so:

That’s what being brought up listening to Radio 2 does for you: you remember records like that.

You won’t be surprised to read that I’ve got loads of these, the next of which is by someone who gets a bad rap for being a bit square (I think that’s it; I certainly don’t recall him having done anything unmentionable, apart from Uptown Girl of course), but I think he’s written some absolute corkers, and this is one of them:

New York, here we are, and here’s Odyssey to tell us we fit right in:

When The Strokes released their wonderful and never-bettered debut album Is This It? in 2001 (God, that makes me feel old), there was a difference between the UK and the US release, for the UK release included this, presumably omitted from the US release because it probably wasn’t considered to sit well so close in the wake of 9/11:

Back in time now, to the first record I ever bought, sort of. You can read about that here but in case you can’t be bothered (and if you’ve got this far I can’t blame you for feeling a bit wiped out) here it is:

Remember about seven hours ago, just after The BPA tune, I asked you to remind me to give you a Pet Shop Boys factoid? Well, the time is now: before he worked for Smash Hits magazine (my gateway drug to pop music before I grew up/discovered the NME) Neil Tennant used to work for Marvel Comics, editing out any hint of nipple from the cartoons contained within the pages of the heralded comic book. And that’s not even as funny as the rumour Stuart Maconie made up about him being a fully qualified Rugby League referee.

Anyway, here’s the Pet Shop Boys:

Hold up, Swiss is back with his quoting lyrics and suggesting songs ways:

“Memphis: ‘home of Elvis and the ancient Greeks’”

Leading him here:

And if you’re going to mention Memphis, you either have to include something by a certain Mr Presley (not Reg), or make a joke about being dead on a toilet eating a burger, or post this:

Funnily enough, Mr Simon is going in the opposite direction to Ian Hunter and the Mott the Hoople crew, as suggested by Phonic Pat:

And here’s a group who are considering a move to a completely different part of the US of A:

But as we all know, there’s only one place in America that one should consider moving to:

And that’s where I intended to sign off, were it not for one final suggestion from Martin:

“Oh, and can I add Vegas by Sleeper, just because… well, okay, just because of Louise Wener, really.”

Of course you can: if it doesn’t get cancelled as opposed to being forever rescheduled, I’ll be going to see them perform their debut album Smart, sometime, along with this morning’s postees The Bluetones doing the same with their debut album Expecting to Fly:

And that’s yer lot, except to reveal the actual next record in the actual Chain, which nobody suggested.

Here’s the link: “Talking Heads had a female bassist. So did…

Which just leaves me to ask for your suggestions for songs which link to 1979 by The Smashing Pumpkins, to be submitted via either the Comments function on this page, or if you prefer anonymity that you ultimately won’t be afforded, by email to

More soon.


I went for a stroll in Central London yesterday. It turns out, quite a few other people had the same idea.

As we walked, every now and then we would hear the whirr of a helicopter’s blades high up above us. Police, we thought, or maybe – cue: dramatic music – someone was filming us.

It was the latter, and here is 9 minutes of their footage, sped up to around 90 seconds (as I imagine the idea of watching 9 minutes of a few people walking through London is a tough sell to make you actually watch it).

Oh, that’s not really “a few”, is it? I’m talking, of course, about the People’s Vote March which took place yesterday. At the time of writing, unconfirmed figures suggest that there were one million of us, and looking at that footage I’d say that’s probably not far off.

I think you would have to be spectacularly naive or blinkered to think that the UK Government’s attempt to negotiate a deal to leave the EU have been anything other than an embarrasing shit-show. For example, we’re on our third Brexit Secretary in as many years.

The first, David Davis, was appointed to the post in July 2016. Shortly after his appointment, he announced: “Be under no doubt we can do deals with our trading partners and we can do them quickly.” In December 2016, he said “What’s the requirement of my job? I don’t have to be clever, I don’t have to know that much, I do just have to be calm.”

“I don’t have to be clever, I don’t have to know that much.” Let that sink in for a moment.

Having capitulated and achieved absolutely nothing in the two years he filled the position, Davis resigned in July 2018.

His replacement was Dominic Raab, who, promisingly, seemed to have paid attention to Davis’s tenure and learned from him. Unfortunately, the thing he learned was that he didn’t have to be clever either, and that not knowing that much was considered to be a key skill in negotiating the most important deal in the UK’s history, as was evidenced when, during a speech at a technology conference in November 2018, he said: “We are, and I hadn’t quite understood the full extent of this, but if you look at the UK and if you look at how we trade in goods, we are particularly reliant on the Dover-Calais crossing.”

You’ve heard of Dover, right? Our closest port to Europe? One of the world’s busiest sea ports? With 2.5 million heavy goods vehicles passing through it every year, carrying £119 billion worth of goods in 2015. Yes that Dover. Dominic Raab, the man who was in charge of negotiating our deal with the EU, “hadn’t quite realised” the importance of the port.

Raab quit his post in November 2018, having lasted an impressive four months and one week in the job. There’s a bottle of milk that’s been in my fridge for longer.

Enter Stephen Barclay, Brexit Secretary No 3, at which point I’m beginning to wonder if they’re trying to have more Brexit Secretaries than Fulham Footall Club have had managers this season.

Now you won’t have heard much from Barclay, because he was not entrusted with the job of negotiations for Brexit. History had proven that that’s the last thing you’d want the Brexit Secretary to be doing. No, his role would be to ‘focus on domestic preparations’ instead. Which is probably why we’ve heard so little from him: he’s presumably stayed at home, preparing.

So, which lucky person was to take over the reigns of negotiations in his stead? Step forward PM Theresa May. I’ll not focus too much on her efforts, because they’ve been pretty well documented elsewhere, and because, credit where credit’s due, at least she managed to negotiate a deal. Having done so, the next step was for the House of Commons to have “a meaningful vote” on it. This was originally due to take place on 11th December 2018 but, when it became clear that it was not going to be passed, May postponed the vote until 15th January 2019, in the hope that she could win sufficient support to get it through in the interim period.

The deal was spectacularly defeated in the House of Commons, by 432 – 202, a margin of 230, the largest defeat for any government in modern Parliamentary history.

Just think how many more votes she would have lost by had she not used all of her persuasive powers to get 202 ministers to vote!

So off she went, back to the EU, to try and renegotiate a deal she had already negotiated, and to try and get some assurances from them about the Northern Ireland backstop.

Again, fair play, she managed that, and in the second meaningful vote on March 12th 2019, the deal was rejected again, this time by 391 – 242. So, if you wanted to be kind, there’s some improvement there.

May’s next plan, it was thought, was to wait a little longer, get a little closer to March 29th 2019 – the date when the UK would have to leave the EU, with or without a deal – in the hope that opponents to the bill would blink first, and back her.

But this was scuppered on Monday when the Speaker of the House of Commons made a statement to the House:

Which means that if May wants to try and get her deal through Parliament, then it cannot be the same deal, or a deal which is substantially the same, as the last one. In other words, she would first need to renegotiate the already renegotiated deal she had negotiated.

And here’s the thing which made so many people come out on Saturday’s march: May thinks that it’s perfectly acceptable to put the same deal – or substantially the same deal – to the house on the numerous occasions, that it’s fine for MPs to change their mind and support her, but she doesn’t think it’s acceptable to go back to the British public and see if they have changed their minds or not.

Once you’re in full possession of the facts, there’s nothing wrong with reassessing matters and coming to a different conclusion. There’s nothing wrong with changing your mind. A view which, it was revealed in a recent interview with Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Liz Truss MP sort of agrees with, with one rather large codicil (the bit I’m referring to starts at around the 6:00 mark, but  the whole clip is a fascinating example of a minister squirming as she is actually challenged on the detail of her answers):

So it’s ok to change your mind, as long as you change your mind to vote from Remain to Leave, and not the other way round. Right. Got it.

It’s anecdotal evidence at best, I admit, but I don’t know of anyone who voted to Remain in the 2016 referendum who now thinks that leaving the EU is a good idea. Not one person. And the reason for that is that nothing has been revealed in the three years since the referendum which indicates that leaving is the best thing for the country.




Oh yeh, sorry. Blue passports. I forgot the blue passports. I take back everything I’ve said.

So let’s look for some clear, non-anecdotal evidence of people who have changed their minds, someone who campaigned and voted Remain in 2016, but who now is actively striving for us to Leave.

I'm In

Oh dear. That’s rather embarrasing, isn’t it?

So, again, it’s okay for the Prime Minister to change her mind on whether the UK should Leave or Remain in the EU, but the British public are not allowed to even be asked if they have too.

Of course, many will have seen the footage of the peaceful protest in London yesterday and will have said something along the lines of “We had a vote, Remain lost, get over it.”

Let’s see if we can find anyone who’s said that *flicks through notes*. Like this lady, for example:

2019-03-24 (2)Well, I think we can say with some degree of certainty that there is no longer any trust in her goverment’s ability to deliver on the “will of the British public”. So let’s look at the rest of that quote.

Here’s the definition of the word “referendum”: a vote in which all the people in a country or an area are asked to give their opinion about or decide an important political or social question.

“…asked to give their opinion about…”

But no, I’m not ignoring the “…decide…” part of that definition.

The thing about referendums, is that they are advisory. They’re non-binding. And how do we know that? Because in July 2018, the Electoral Commission found that the Brexit campaign group Vote Leave had broken electoral law, by exceeding the £7 million spending limit by £675,315, which they had funnelled through pro-Brexit youth group (I find it staggering that such a thing exists, but there you go) BeLeave.

(Vote Leave, in case you weren’t totally sure, were the offical group of the Leave campaign in the run-up to the EU Referendum in 2016. They were led by those thoroughly decent, reliable chaps Boris Johnson and Michael Gove.)

So, electoral rules were broken, therefore we should have the referendum again, right? Like we would if, say, the same electoral laws were broken in a General Election, right?

Wrong. A Supreme Court ruling in December 2016 found that the referendum was not legally binding, merely “advisory”, so it cannot be re-run by a court. Rather, any decision to have a fresh referendum would have to be made by the government and Parliament would have to pass a referendum act.

So there you have that point answered. Advisory, and not legally binding.

But why do people think the referendum was binding? Because David Cameron said so. You remember David Cameron, right? The chap who called the referendum to stave off a rise in popularity of UKIP, and to appease the hard right within the Conservative Party. The man who lit the fuse and walked away, rather than owning the mess, just like Davis, Raab, Johnson, Gove and Farage have all done as the realisation dawned on them that they cannot deliver what was “promised” in the referendum.

And in any event, Cameron could not unilaterally declare the outcome of a referendum to be legally binding.

And finally, to answer that oft-trotted out line about how Remainers ‘only want a second referendum because they lost the first one, and if they lose that, they’ll be pressing for a third, and maybe a fourth one, until they get an answer they like’. Putting aside the obvious parallels with that position and Theresa May’s attempts to get her deal through Parliament, the answer is: no, of course they won’t. They’ll accept the outcome of the vote.

Because this time, the British public will be more aware of how their opinion may be manipulated by social media, they will be less likely to fall for obvious lies just because they’re written on the side of a bus, all campaigning sides would doubtless be closely scrutinised to ensure that electoral laws are not broken this time, and, crucially, they will then be in full possession of the facts, which they weren’t when we they were originally posited the question in a ridiculous binary manner.

And I don’t see why MPs are so reluctant to go for a second vote. Parliament is in dead-lock over Brexit, and even if May is allowed to present her deal to the House for a third meaningful vote, the chances of it getting through would seem very slim indeed. So it’s a no-brainer: let the people have another say, and then MPs have been absolved of having to decide between them. And if those who continue to argue for Leave are so confident of the result being the same, what is there for them to be so afraid of?

Extraordinarily, I’ll leave the last word to David Davis MP. He may not be clever or know that much, but he did get one thing right:


And that’s why I went on the People’s Vote March yesterday.

Right, that’s enough ranting. Who fancies some tunes?


At around 12:30 yesterday, I arrived at Marble Arch tube station. As I walked towards the stairs, I overheard a conversation between a member of the public and an employee of Transport for London:

Member of the Public: Excuse me, can you tell me the way to the protest march?

Transport for London employee (looking slightly surprised he needed to be asked): Just follow everybody else, mate.

I emerged from Marble Arch tube station, blinking into the sunlight, and a lot of people. An awful lot of people. We began walking – marching isn’t really an accurate way to describe it, as progress was definitely not marching-pace swift – down Park Lane.

The first thing that struck me – apart from the number of people – was the wide age range of those in attendance. It put paid to any broad brush argument that everyone over the age of 60 voted to Leave, for there were many people there even older than I. And there were many young folks too, many of whom were too young to have voted in 2016, and who now wanted their voices to be heard.

As we walked, every now and then I reached a point where a sound system had been erected, booming out tunes designed to get everyone bouyant, bobbing and up-for-it.

Here’s the first one I heard:

get up

James Brown – Get Up Offa That Thing

I had no placard, no banner, no flag, no stickers, no slogan scrawled across my tee-shirt, but there were many who did, and they were waved and displayed in time with the music as we shuffled slowly forwards.

I did take a few pictures of some which made me smile throughout the day. They ranged from the niche 80s sitcom referencing:

Good Moaning (2)

to the less niche 90s sitcom referencing:

2nd Referendum (2)

to the slightly surreal:

Baguettes not Regrets (2)

to the rather rude:

Pull Out (2)

to the rather rude and extremely niche Fyre Festival documentary referencing:

Fyre Festival (2)

As we proceeded down Park Lane, the crowd ebbed and flowed, and I was walking alongside the same people for a good while, other people for less long. At one point I found myself alongside a group of shirtless young men carrying banners which read “Fags Against Brexit”. I have to say they were an absolutely cracking bunch of lads, who were there to express their displeasure at the potential curtailing of duty-free at our seaports and airports should we leave the EU. (I think I’ve got that right.)

On I went, leaving my new found pals to bring up the rear (I know, I know, a cheap gag…), the route punctuated now by people on the sidelines, some with megaphones, some with just really loud voices, encouraging the crowd to join in with the usual chants one hears at this sort of thing:

Man with Megaphone: What do we want?

Crowd: A People’s Vote!

Man with Megaphone: When do we want it?

Crowd: Now!

I’ve always had a problem with this chant. Whilst I of course accept that everyone there did indeed want a People’s Vote – it would be really unwise of me to try and argue otherwise – it’s the response to the “When do we want it?” question with which I take issue. However, I decide against proffering my alternative response – “Once I’ve got home to where I’m on the electoral register, or alternatively approximately sixteen calendar days after I’ve registered for a postal vote” – as it really isn’t quite so catchy.

The biggest cheer of the afternoon was reserved for the people standing in the entrance to The Dorchester on Park Lane, brandishing a “Tories Against Brexit” placard; sadly I was on the other side of the road and couldn’t get a clear view through all of the other placards and flags to take a picture, so you’ll just have to believe me on that point.

The route then took us past Hyde Park Corner and Green Park and then on to Piccadilly. And it was here that, around 16:30, I decided that it was probably time for me to…erm…Leave. I’d been walking, albeit not very fast, for four hours, which is definitely the most exercise I’ve had since I came out of hospital; my legs were causing me a lot of problems, and I knew that I’d missed the speeches at Parliament Square. In any event, I’d said I would be at my friends Gary and Meg’s place for around 5-ish and I already knew I was going to be a little late. I slipped away from the crowd, and checked my phone to see where the nearest tube station was: Piccadilly Circus – which, for those of you familiar with London’s geography, shows you that I hadn’t actually managed to walk all that far – it’s about 1.3 miles away from where I’d joined the march.

But there was a problem, for I had left the march by moving away and to the right – not something I do often – but Piccadilly Circus tube was in the other direction, which meant that to get to it, I would have to traverse the crowd. I started to pick my way through, and around half-way across was suddenly aware that I was not alone in my endeavours. I looked behind me and saw a Spanish couple blatantly tail-gating me, following in my rather wide berth.

“Are you following me?” I laughed

“Yes, keep going you’re doing very well!” they chirruped.

As we emerged from the other side, they thanked me for (unintentionally) helping them.

“No problem,” I replied, “it’s nice to help my European friends.”

Never let it be said that I don’t know how to deliver a cheesy line.

I got to Piccadily Circus tube, to find another massive crowd, which I’d been expecting. But this crowd was definitely not moving, as nobody was being allowed to proceed through the barriers and down to the platforms.

An announcement over the PA system: “Ladies and Gentlemen, Green Park station has now re-opened, but only for those wishing to exit or interchange.” Quite a few of the crowd left, which I found a bit puzzling, because the announcement made it very clear that whilst Green Park station was open, you couldn’t enter it, only exit.

And then another announcement: “Ladies and Gentlemen, this station is now closed. There will be no more trains stopping at this station for the foreseeable time.”

Fair enough, I thought, as I trudged back up the stairs and into the streets. They have to make sure the service is safe to use, and if the presence of many, many more members of the public than usual meant that they may not be safe, then I understood their reasoning.

Bloody EU health and safety directives, stopping me from being crushed in the rush for a seat on the train! Grrrrr!!!

The irony of my not being able to Leave an Anti-Leave demonstration was not lost on me, however.


The tune which made me, and so many others around me, smile the most yesterday afternoon, I heard somewhere around Hyde Park Corner, close to the Bomber Command Memorial. It was a really rather appropriate record, the sort of thing which someone who…oh, I don’t know…writes a blog which often mixes stories, anecdotes, political comment and music might use.

This one:


XTC – Making Plans for Nigel

For the sake of balance, I should end by pointing out that whilst (probably) a million people turned out to demonstrate and call for a People’s Vote in Central london, Nigel Farage was addressing a pro-Brexit rally.

To 200 attendees.

In a pub car park in Nottingham.

Will of the people, my arse.

More soon.

Don’t Panic!

After I posted a TV theme from my childhood on Sunday, which attracted some rather lovely comments about the memories hearing it brought back, I started thinking about other TV themes which evoked the same kind of memories for me.

And I came up with this:


The Eagles – Journey of the Sorcerer

For those of you who don’t recognise that, it was used as the theme tune at first for the BBC Radio series, and then as the BBC TV Series, of Douglas Adams’ peerless The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which, as luck would have it, first aired, on 8th March 1978, forty years ago today.

I first encountered it in 1982. How am I able to say that so confidently? Well, because my brother recorded them all onto C60 cassettes, one episode on each side, and drew his own cover art for each of them. There were thirteen episodes, which meant that one blank side was left over, which he filled with songs taped off the Top 40. And amongst those songs, were Status Quo’s Something ‘Bout You Baby I Like and XTC’s Senses Working Overtime. And guess which of those two I’m going to post? Yup:


XTC – Senses Working Overtime

When my brother left home to join the RAF, I claimed those cassettes, and they stayed with me right up until the final year of my degree course, when one of the options was a Creative Writing for Radio, which I took.  At some point in one of the lectures, the subject of The Hitchhiker’s Guide… came up, and, eager to please, I happened to let slip that I had all of them, should anyone wish to borrow them. I don’t think there was one person who didn’t borrow the set and come back to the next lecture gushing about how brilliant they are. So brilliant, in fact, that I never got them back again.

Although it didn’t occur to me at the time, one of the reasons that I took that course was because of how awe inspired I was by Adams’ work, and how I wanted to emulate him. You can tell by the fact that I’m writing this, that I was never successful.

But I digress. One of the biggest misconceptions that people make about the The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – and by people, I mean people who have never read, listened to or watched it – is that it’s something for nerds, of sci-fi fans. Wrong, wrong, wrong. I mean, yes, it is set in space, and yes, there are aliens and robots, and yes there are characters with funny names (Slartibartfast is a favourite, specifically because Adams wanted a character whose name sounded very rude, but which was still actually broadcastable. He therefore started with the name Phartiphukborlz, and changed bits of it until it would be acceptable to the BBC) but above and beyond all of that it’s a very, very funny work, often satirical in places.

Here’s the premise: Arthur Dent is rescued from Earth’s destruction by his long-standing friend, Ford Prefect, who, until his rescue, Arthur has no idea whatsoever is not a human at all, but rather a human-like alien from Betelgeuse, working as a writer for the titular electronic travel guide. The two escape by hitchhiking onto a passing Vogon spacecraft, who have been sent to destroy the Earth to make way for a new Hyperspace By-pass. Together, and along with the President of the Galaxy, Zaphod Beeblebrox, and his companion, Trillian (not forgetting the depressed Marvin the Paranoid Android) they explore the galaxy and along the way discover how, why, by and for whom the Earth was created in the first place.

Okay, so it is sounding a little sci-fi-y, I suppose.

For those of you who are able to listen to it, there’s a rather wonderful episode of Bookclub available on the BBC iPlayer, an hour long special to mark their 20th anniversary, which includes an interview with Adams. If you’re in the UK (and pay your licence fee, of course), it’s here. In it Adams is asked whether or not he considers himself to be a sci-fi writer or not. His answer is rather illuminating:

“Well, I’ve always denied this, I’ve always said I’m primarily a comedy writer, but I have to say that virtually everything I ever write turns out to have something to do with science or science fiction, and anytime I try to right something else, very quickly spaceships and robots start creeping round the edges, so I think I probably do have to own up and say maybe I am a science-fiction writer after all.”

But it’s weird how some science fiction can come true. For example, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a book that….well, I’ll let The Book itself explain (these are the first words you hear in episode one of the radio series):

“This is the story of ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’: perhaps the most remarkable –  certainly the most successful – book ever to come out of the great publishing corporations of Ursa Minor. More popular than ‘The Celestial Homecare Omnibus’, better selling than ’53 More Things To Do in Zero Gravity’ and more controversial than Oolon Calluphid’s trilogy of philosophical blockbusters ‘Where God Went Wrong’, ‘Some More of God’s Greatest Mistakes’ and ‘Who Is This God Person Anyway?’

And in many of the more relaxed civilisations on the Outer Eastern Rim of the Galaxy, The Hitchhiker’s Guide… has already supplanted the great Encyclopaedia Galactica as the standard repository of all knowledge and wisdom, for though it has many omissions and contains much that is apocryphal, or at least wildly inaccurate, it scores over the older, more pedestrian work in two important respects.

First, it is slightly cheaper; and secondly it has the words

Don't Panic

inscribed in large friendly letters on its cover.”

Does that sound familiar? A digital portable reference book which gives you access to all of the information and knowledge, and quite a lot of disinformation and ignorance, in the known world?

(If it doesn’t sound familiar to you, then might I suggest you have a look at what you’re reading this on, and reconsider your first answer.)

Here are some other great quotes from the series, some funny, some thought-provoking, many both:

“In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.”

There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.”

“The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t.”

Arthur: You know it’s at times like this, when I’m trapped in a Vogon airlock with a man from Betelgeuse, and about to die of asphyxiation in deep space that I really wish I’d listened to what my mother told me when I was young.
Ford: Why, what did she tell you?
Arthur: I don’t know, I didn’t listen.

“On the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much — the wheel, New York, wars and so on — whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man for precisely the same reasons.”

“It is known that there are an infinite number of worlds, simply because there is an infinite amount of space for them to be in. However, not every one of them is inhabited. Therefore, there must be a finite number of inhabited worlds. Any finite number divided by infinity is as near to nothing as makes no odds, so the average population of all the planets in the Universe can be said to be zero. From this it follows that the population of the whole Universe is also zero, and that any people you may meet from time to time are merely the products of a deranged imagination.”

“Nothing travels faster than the speed of light with the possible exception of bad news, which obeys its own special laws.”

As I mentioned, there’s often a satirical bent to Adams’ writing:

“The disadvantages involved in pulling lots of black sticky slime from out of the ground where it had been safely hidden out of harm’s way, turning it into tar to cover the land with, smoke to fill the air with and pouring the rest into the sea, all seemed to outweigh the advantages of being able to get more quickly from one place to another.”

And perhaps most famously and appropriately for our times, this:

“It is a well known fact that those people who most want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it. To summarise the summary: anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.”

But apart from predicting the creation of the internet and the rise to power of Bush, Trump, or whoever we all think is an incapable idiot this week, Hitchhiker has inspired many other things. Take the Babel Fish. More quotes, I’m afraid:

“The Babel Fish is small, yellow, leech-like, and probably the oddest thing in the universe. It feeds on brain wave energy, absorbing all unconscious frequencies and then excreting telepathically a matrix formed from the conscious frequencies and nerve signals picked up from the speech centres of the brain, the practical upshot of which is that if you stick one in your ear, you can instantly understand anything said to you in any form of language: the speech you hear decodes the brain wave matrix.

Now it is such a bizarrely improbable coincidence that anything so mind-bogglingly useful could evolve purely by chance that some thinkers have chosen to see it as a final and clinching proof of the non-existence of God.

The argument goes something like this:

“I refuse to prove that I exist,” says God, “for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing.”

“But,” says Man, “the Babel fish is a dead giveaway, isn’t it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don’t. QED.”

“Oh dear,” says God, “I hadn’t thought of that,” and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic.

“Oh, that was easy,” says Man, and for an encore goes on to prove that black is white, and gets killed on the next zebra crossing.”

And that has led to online translation service

The world of music hasn’t escaped the influence either; £1 million-insured thumb-slapping bass based 80s popsters Level 42 take their name from the answer to Life, The Universe and Everything, and Radiohead had their biggest hit in the UK with this, inspired by the aforementioned Marvin, which reached #3 back in 1997:


Radiohead – Paranoid Android

Of course, there are other, less critically acclaimed musical moments inspired by the great book, not least this, voiced by actor Stephen Moore, who played perhaps the most memorable character in both the radio and television series. Listening to this now, it sounds like the Not The Nine O’Clock News gang doing a comedy send-up of Kraftwerk:


Marvin the Paranoid Android – Marvin

You know Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the book on which Blade Runner was based? Well here’s your answer: No.



In case you haven’t guessed by now, I bloody love the universe Adams creates in The Hitchhiker… series. So if this is your first exposure to it, and you decide you want to investigate further, then I envy you and the journey you’re about to embark on.

If I were you, I’d start with the radio series, then track down the TV series (which visually hasn’t aged that well, but of all the differing platforms it is the most faithful to the radio series, and is available on DVD, and probably on YouTube if I could muster up the energy to check), then read the five books in, as Adams himself put it, the increasingly inaccurately titled trilogy, and then, if you really must, watch the film (I’m not saying it’s bad, it’s just…disappointing. Not a patch on the radio series, which you should then revisit to remind yourself just how great it is.)

“But how can we hear them?” you (hopefully) ask.

Ok, well if you want to dip your toe in and try them one at a time, here you go:

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Series 1, Episode 1

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Series 1, Episode 2

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Series 1, Episode 3

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Series 1, Episode 4

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Series 1, Episode 5

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Series 1, Episode 6

Or, if you want to download the whole lot in one go:

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Series 1, Episodes 1 – 6

Finally, one last thing, and we’re popping back to the BBC iPlayer and to this, the ironically titled: Boring Talks #01 – The End Of The World where Steve Cross close-reads The Hitchhiker’s Guide… to try and work out the specific date of the end of the world. You will be surprised by his conclusions…

(NB – you will need to have a (free to set up) account to listen to either of the BBC iPlayer links, and the programmes are only available for a limited period of time.)

Anyway, that’s my bandwidth shafted for a few days, so I’ll see you at the weekend.

Or rather, so long, and thanks for all the fish.

Or, put another way: more soon.

The Chain #41

Never let it be said I’m not a man of my word.

For here we are, a week later, and The Chain is back! Back!! Back!!! (again) for another instalment.

Truth be told, I was totally blown away by the response I received to last week’s edition, so blown away that I almost went full on Sally Field. So y’know, cheers.

I’m also delighted that not only have a couple of old Chain Gang friends chipped in this week, but we also have three new members to welcome aboard.

Before we go any further though, some admin, and I need to add a new rule to the ten I posted last week, namely this:

11. The same artist can feature twice in the same week, but only if suggested by different people. In other words, if you suggest two songs by the same act, I’ll ask you to just pick one of them; if you don’t reply, I’ll pick for one for you.

Actually, this is an old rule that I forgot to include last week. One of you nearly came a cropper with this one, but just about managed to dodge the bullet. You’ll see what I mean.

Ok, so we have 49 new songs (count ’em!) and over three and a half hours worth of tunes to get through this week, and there’s some real treats, including a couple of acts I was surprised to find featuring in The Chain for the first time, some commercially unreleased live stuff, a couple of songs which have featured here before under different guises, a couple of real rarities (I think), a contender for Worst Record In The History of Everything Ever, and – and I mention this now to introduce some totally unneccessary tension and excitement into proceedings – one of you correctly guessed the next record in the Official Chain.

So let’s kick things off with a reminder of the last source song, that is the song that you were all providing suggestions to this week:

20140211-18431840. The Beach Boys – God Only Knows

And where better to start than with a new member of The Chain Gang? Ladies and Gentleman, please rattle your manacles and give a warm welcome to GMFree:

“The most obvious songs that I thought of first were ‘God Only Knows’ by James…”

Now, in the same way that I think if you’re going to cover a song you should try and do something interesting with it, by the same token I think that if you’re going to write a song and give it the same name as universally loved classic, then it is undoubtedly going to be compared to said song, so you’d better make sure yours is good….


James – God Only Knows

“…and….” Whoa there, GM! We’ve not finished with the songs also called “God Only Knows”.

Over to you The Swede (of Unthought of, though, somehow):

“From ‘God Only Knows’ by The Beach Boys to…..’God Only Knows’ by Joe Henry – same title, different song, fortunately a quite lovely one.”

He’s not wrong, you know:


Joe Henry – God Only Knows

Now to the first of my oh so many suggestions this week. Imagine Yoda is reciting the name of the source song, he’d probably refer to it like this:


Young Fathers (feat. Leith Congregational Choir) – Only God Knows

Time for Dirk of sexyloser fame to contribute:

“‘God Only Knows’? So what does he know? Well, he knows it’s true, obviously … so I’ll go for Teenage Fanclub”

Now, strictly speaking, I should be disallowing this suggestion, because this song has featured on The Chain before, back in edition #32, to be precise. However, I’m going to allow it this week for three reasons: firstly, it ws me who suggested it last time; secondly, I posted a Peel Sessions version last time and this time I’m posting the original, and thirdly, because last time it featured I had changed one word in the title from “God” to “Gourd” so that it linked to the source record (XTC’s “The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead”, in case you’re interested).

In other words, this is totally fine:


Teenage Fanclub – God Knows It’s True

What else does God know? Let’s ask David Bowie, who has probably found out whether he was right by now:


David Bowie – God Knows I’m Good

That song title in no way references my Gourd pun earlier, by the way.

Next up, it’s Martin from New Amusements, and he’s going all deep and meaningful on us:

“‘God Only Knows’ has one of the most honest first lines in songwriting history, I’ll throw in ‘Honesty’ by Billy Joel.”


Billy Joel – Honesty

Ok GM, the floor’s yours again:

“…and ‘Lord Only Knows’ by Beck, there is a great version from his Union Chapel show in 2003 which includes harmonica and merges into Hot In Here (Herre !?) in a way only Beck can do.”

You mean this, I presume:


Beck – Lord Only Knows & Hot In Here (Live at Union Chapel)

We’re into not commercially released stuff with that one, as far as I know. Any chance to feature Beck, and moreover Union Chapel, my favourite venue in London, will be gratefully seized.

Next up, it’s over to The Beard, who provides one of his usual interesting links:

“God Only Knows is featured in the film Boogie Nights. The film centres around the supremely endowed Dirk Diggler, played by Mark Wahlberg. He also starred in ‘Four Brothers’ which is pretty much a remake of the John Wayne driven western ‘The Sons Of Katie Elder’. John Wayne? Motherfuck him as said Public Enemy on Fight The Power.”


Public Enemy – Fight the Power

Speaking of John Wayne, he also starred in the original release of ‘True Grit’ along with the next artist. Over to you, Alyson (of What’s It All About?):

“In light of [last] Tuesday’s sad news of the death of Glen Campbell, and the fact he stood in for Brian Wilson in 1964 as a Beach Boy, I am reminded of his song ‘Galveston’ which always makes me think of a beach because of the following lines:

‘I still hear your sea waves crashing
While I watch the cannons flashing
I clean my gun
And dream of Galveston.’

I know we’ll all have heard it a lot over the last couple of days but I never tire of these songs of his.”

To be fair, Galveston is one of a clutch of Campbell’s records that I don’t think many of us will get tired of hearing:


Glen Campbell – Galveston

And so we seem to have made the seamless move from songs which reference ‘God Only Knows’, to songs which link to members, full or part time, of The Beach Boys. So what next?

George has the answer:

“Can I propose a third song that is really, really shit?” he asks.

Yes, I know you haven’t heard his first two suggestions yet. I choose the order the songs feature in, and I want to post his third (really, really shit) suggestion first.

As I pointed out to George in the Comments to last week’s edition, he doesn’t normally ask permission.

“It’s by Wilson Phillips…….one of whom is a relation of a Beach Boy…….and the song is ‘Hold On’. But feel free to disqualify it because it is simply too dreadful.”

George is fully aware that a record being dreadful, or shit, or shittily dreadful, is not enough to preclude it from The Chain. For here, we embrace the dreadfully shit (by which I categorically do not mean Donald J Trump, who we try to keep at arms length at the very least).

And besides, I’ve listened to this – and all of the suggestions – a lot over the last week, and I’ve grown to quite like this:


Wilson Phillips – Hold On

Actually, two of Wilson Phillips are the daughters of Brian Wilson; I expected someone would suggest a record by the parents of the third member, but nobody did, so I may as well:


The Mamas & The Papas – Creeque Alley

“God Only Knows”, of course, features on The Beach Boys album “Pet Sounds”, so how about a couple of suggestions which link to that? Step forwards The Great Gog, who I see has now got as far as starting his own blog, but hasn’t yet got round to writing anything on it just yet. He’s probably got far more important things to be getting on with, like suggesting this kind of thing:

“I’ll go with the fact that ‘God Only Knows’ features on the album Pet Sounds. This album also features a track called ‘Caroline, No’. Whenever I spot this on the album, I always think of the similarly titled Talk Talk track, ‘Does Caroline Know?’ – not surprising really as I owned the ‘It’s My Life’ album some time before I acquired Pet Sounds.”

‘Pet Sounds’ is one of those albums, I think – or at least it is to me – that I knew what a great album it is long before I actually got round to listening to it, let alone owning a copy. I don’t think I actually heard ‘Pet Sounds’ until I was in my late twenties, but I remember in my early twenties having a very long discussion in the pub one night with one of my friend’s younger brother’s friends about how amazing it is, without him realising I’d never heard it. Hold the front page: Jez is a complete bullshitter shocker!

Anyway, here’s your suggestion:


Talk Talk – Does Caroline Know?

Mention ‘Caroline, No’ and I can’t resist posting this:


Kaiser Chiefs – Caroline, Yes

Bet you all thought I was going to post some Quo then, didn’t you?


Oh wait, what’s this?

God Only Knows how utterly predictable I am.

Although it does mean I can post this….

A change of pace now, and here’s Jules from Music From Magazines who I think now feels obliged to suggest something by Lambchop every time:

“‘The Book I Haven’t Read’ (Live Version) from a tour CD titled Pet Sounds suck” by Lambchop.”

This, then, would be one them there rarities I mentioned earlier:


Lambchop – The Book I Haven’t Read (Live Version)

Next up is BabyLotti:

“I’ve got to link to the best cover of one of The Beach Boys’ songs I’ve ever heard, Don’t worry baby by Ronnie Spector from the She Talks To Rainbows EP. Produced by no less than Joey Ramone”


Ronnie Spector – Don’t Worry Baby

It’s pretty hard to top that, to be fair, so let’s move on to a new batch of songs, and here’s all the God-bothering suggestions you came up with.

First out of the bag is Alex G from We Will Have Salad:

“So many gods to choose from… luckily I don’t own anything by Hermes House Band, so you’re spared that. Instead, let’s go for the god to whom I am most frequently compared (admittedly in the form “you’re no…”) and some proper old-school house: ‘No Way Back’ by Adonis.”

Shame about the Hermes House Band; I’ve got loads of gags about the Hermes parcel delivery service all lined up and ready to go.


Adonis – No Way Back

The rest of you stick to referencing songs with ‘God’ in the title, so let’s work our way through them.

First up, a song which we featured a cover by Tricky of back on The Chain #37. Nevertheless, it’s the original version suggested by Martin of New Amusements so it’s in:

“Going the God route, with ‘Dear God’ by XTC…” 


XTC – Dear God

“…and…” Whoa there, Martin! We’ve not finished with the songs that have God in the title.

First, we’re going back to The Swede for his second suggestion of the week, “…another divine link of a slightly more irreverent nature…” as he quite rightly puts it: