Tuesday 30 August 2011

Clandestine Classic XVII - Purple Love Balloon

Purple Love Balloon cover artThe seventeenth post in an occasional series that is intended to highlight songs that you might not have heard that I think are excellent - clandestine classics, if you will. Maybe they'll be by bands you've never heard of. Maybe they'll be by more familiar artists, but tracks that were squirelled away on b-sides, unpopular albums, radio sessions or music magazine cover-mounted CDs. Time will, undoubtedly, tell.

You know the trouble with reputations? That good ones are hard to earn and bad ones are hard to lose? Well, that was always Cud's problem in my view. For though I must stop short of calling them "Leeds' finest" (that soubriquet belongs to The Wedding Present), here is a band that emerged at the tail-end of the 80s, became beloved of a certain John Peel, and released a succession of excellent albums in the early nineties. And yet...? Why were they not bigger? Why did Carl Puttnam and his merry band not achieve more?

Part of the problem, I think, is that they became perceived as being a bit jokey - not quite a comedy band but in some ways not too far from it. Having song titles like Only (A Prawn In Whitby) probably didn't help matters much. Nor did songs like today's Clandestine Classic either, from August 1992 the critically overlooked Purple Love Balloon. For a start, there's the euphemistic title and sleeve art, a sleeve which also, lest we forget, included the following instructions for caring for your very own Purple Love Balloon: "Use from early spring to late winter with any suitable equipment. Transplant careully, while under the influence, into package and store at 18-21C (65-70F). Remove any side shoots and use 14 times a day. Feed regularly and provide plenty of liquids especially in hot weather, a dry atmosphere and warm conditions. Can also be used outdoors, in gardens, in parks or in the shelter of a sunny wall. Start using once inflated, fully formed and as soon as it has reached an acceptable size."

So, what do we have, here, really? Post-C86, pre-Britpop, indie-boy guitar-pop, yes? Well, yes, to an extent. But the secret to a lots of Cud's success, such as it was, and certainly to the success of today's Classic, is that these indie boys could get a bit funky. I mean, really, properly. Listen to that bassline. And that jangly guitar motif. These boys could play. Okay, so over all that musical loveliness you've got some bloke intoning in an unrepentant Northern bark (and I like that it's unrepentant) that he wants to take you high, in his purple love balloon. So yes, the lyrics might be described as a bit silly. But then this is Cud, after all...

Rightly or wrongly (which itself sounds like a Cud song title), Purple Love Balloon shifted 50,000 copies and made it to a heady number 27 in the charts. I know, quite an indictment of today's chart and its requisite sales figures, but anyway. You can find Purple Love Balloon on the remastered Asquarius or, better still, on their double-CD anthology Rich and Strange. Or here it is:

And what would a Clandestine Classic post be without a bonus video from YouTube? Well, luckily for us all Cud briefly reconvened in 2008 for a couple of gigs in that there London, so here's a live rendition of Purple Love Balloon. Not sure you should still be wearing those trousers though Carl...

Friday 19 August 2011

Finally, a blogroll

In case you hadn't noticed, this blog isn't on Blogger or Wordpress or Tumblr or Posterous or any of the others. It's lovingly (sometimes grudgingly) hand-coded by yours truly and, I like to think, all the better for it. And whilst I manage to fashion reasonable approximations of most "proper" blog features, like RSS feeds, commenting, permalinks and so on, the one omission that has always irked me is the absence of a blogroll on here. I read a number of blogs regularly - they're good, and I want to share them with you.

In the past, I've experimented with all manner of third-party solutions to this, mostly Javascripts, but none of them ever did everything I wanted. Specifically, I wanted to: combine posts from multiple blogs into one feed; only pull back the newest post from each of those blogs; display the blog name, post title and beginning of the post; display an icon for each entry in the feed; sort the feed in descending date order; and have the feed "widget" scroll. Not too much to ask, is it? Well obviosuly it was, because no third-party solution I tried could do all of that to my satisfaction (I'm hard to please).

So... I suddenly remembered I'm an IT guy by trade, and made my own solution. First off, I used the quite excellent Yahoo Pipes to combine the 20 feeds I want to share with you, take the latest post from each and sort them appropriately. One of the output options in Pipes is RSS, so I then took that and punted it into Surfing Waves' excellent, free and highly customisable feed widget. This gave me a Javascript that I could embed in my blog and that, after a few tweaks of my own to make the sizing work better, Bob's your uncle. Okay, so the sizing still isn't great in Internet Explorer because IE (up to version 8 at least) isn't properly standards compliant. I guess I could have written some "if this browser then this resizing code else that resizing code" into the Javascript but, to be honest, I don't really have the time. Besides, I was trying to keep the Javascript short and sweet.

I know, unless you're a techie or a web-designer none of the above is very interesting. But I'll tell you what is interesting: all the blogs on the right-hand side of this page, that's what. Go and read them!

Thursday 11 August 2011

'Tis the season... the footy season

The start of the new Premier League season is (riots permitting) just days away, so surely there's never been a better time to sign up to play the free, official Premier League fantasy football game for 2011/12? To enter, simply register for free here. Et voila!

Here's my team, Jack Of Ball Trades, as it is for the start of the season... wonder how many of these players I'll still have come May?

Jack Of Ball Trades - perennial nearly-men

Wednesday 10 August 2011

"In the absence of human touch"

Yes, I know that the embedded video without context is a heinous blog crime. I know. But since wanton criminality seems to be the order of the day just now, bollocks to it. After all, this song has plenty of context in my head, and that's all this blog is ever really about, isn't it? Me, me, me.

Monday 1 August 2011

The 15 Movie Questions Meme

Shamelessly pinched from the always-excellent Too Much Apple Pie, who in turn pinched it from Rol at Sunset Over Slawit, who in turn got it from Sunday Stealing, and so the list goes on. I try to maintain a healthy meme-aversion but since this is all about films, I'll let this one slide. Ask me these questions again in a week's time and you'll get several different answers, undoubtedly, but for now here goes.

  1. Movie you love with a passion.
    Easy. The Graduate. Made before I was born, this still speaks to me about how I felt about my life when I was a graduate. Except, you know, I didn't sleep with a family friend's wife and then run off with the daughter.
  2. Movie you vow to never watch.
    Not so easy. I usually vow never to watch a film again, having suffered it once. But just on principle, I intend never to watch anything with Transformers in the title.
  3. Movie that literally left you speechless.
    Lars von Trier's Antichrist. And no, it wasn't that self-mutilation scene that tipped this film over the edge for me but the opening two minutes. I can't think of anything I've found as hard to watch. So speechless, but not in a good way.
  4. Movie you always recommend.
    Most films by Stanley Kubrick, but most of all 2001: A Space Odyssey. I've banged on enough about this in the past so I'll just say that it makes space travel look how I want it to be, and has a breadth and scale that is unsurpassed even now, more than 40 years later.
  5. Actor/actress you always watch, no matter how crappy the movie.
    Not that he's made too many crappy ones, but Robert De Niro. People rightly talk about Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, both astounding, but God, have you seen Cape Fear too? The guy is bloody amazing.
  6. Actor/actress you don’t get the appeal for.
    I don't really understand why teenage girls the world over get their collective knickers in a knot over Daniel Radcliffe but I guess that's because I'm neither teenage nor a girl.
  7. Actor/actress, living or dead, you’d love to meet.
    I'm not sure it's such a great idea to meet your heroes - how can they do anything other than disappoint? So I won't say Dustin Hoffman or Robert De Niro or anyone else who I might feel let down by, but instead Tim Robbins. I think he'd be interesting to talk to without even discussing his many excellent films.
  8. Sexiest actor/actress you’ve seen. (Picture required!)
    Well, I couldn't choose so here's two and you can decide for yourself!
    Natalie Portman... and no, it's not a Star Wars thing.   Audrey Tautou... and yes, it probably is an Amelie thing.
  9. Dream cast.
    Well, obviously Dustin Hoffman, Robert De Niro, Natalie Portman and Audrey Tautou, for starters. Now I just need to work on a pitch to bring them together...
  10. Favorite actor pairing.
    John Gordon Sinclair and Clare Grogan in Gregory's Girl. If you were a secondary school boy in the 80s, you know why.
  11. Favorite movie setting.
    I'm with Rol on this one. The Overlook Hotel, the setting for King and Kubrick's spectacular collision.
  12. Favorite decade for movies.
    I'm guessing this will be an unpopular choice but the 70s. Lots of gritty movies like Midnight Cowboy and Marathon Man, some great pre-Lucas sci-fi like Logan's Run and Westworld, the rise of Spielberg (Jaws, Duel, Close Encounters)... what's not to love?
  13. Chick flick or action movie?
    Action movie if I'm on my todd, chick flick if watching with my significant other. I'm no fool.
  14. Hero, villain or anti-hero?
    Sometimes hero, occasionally villain but mostly anti-hero.
  15. Black and white or color?
    Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.