Friday, 25 December 2020

Blue Friday: Soon You'll Get Better

Stow your preconceptions and snobbery, musos, because this is a beautiful performance. Dedicated here today to everyone who can't see loved ones this Christmas.

Thursday, 24 December 2020

Father Christmas, give us some money

Don't know why this doesn't get played as often as Slade and Wizzard but, straight from 1977, here are The Kinks with their attempt at a festive single... and it didn't chart, not even the lower reaches! A travesty!

Those lyrics in full. Maybe why it doesn't get played so much...

When I was small, I believed in Santa Claus though I knew it was my dad
And I would hang up my stockings at Christmas, open my presents, and I'd be glad.
But the last time I played Father Christmas I stood outside a department store,
A gang of kids came over and mugged me and knocked my reindeer to the floor. They said

Father Christmas, give us some money, don't mess around with those silly toys.
We'll beat you up if you don't hand it over, we want your bread so don't make us annoyed.
Give all the toys to the little rich boys

Don't give my brother a Steve Austin outfit, don't give my sister a cuddly toy.
We don't want no jigsaw or Monopoly money, we only want the real McCoy.

Father Christmas, give us some money, we'll beat you up if you make us annoyed.
Father Christmas, give us some money, don't mess around with those silly toys.

Give my daddy a job 'cause he needs one, he's got lots of mouths to feed,
But if you've got one, I'll take a machine gun, so I can scare all the kids on the street

Father Christmas, give us some money, don't mess around with those silly toys.
We'll beat you up if you don't hand it over, we want your bread so don't make us annoyed.
Give all the toys to the little rich boys

Have yourself a merry merry Christmas, have yourself a good time.
But remember the kids who got nothing, while you're drinking down your wine.

Father Christmas, give us some money, we got no time for your silly toys.
Father Christmas, please hand it over, we'll beat you up, don't make us annoyed.
Father Christmas, give us some money, don't mess around with those silly toys.
We'll beat you up if you don't hand it over, we want your bread so don't make us annoyed.
Give all the toys to the little rich boys.

Wednesday, 23 December 2020

Because it's Christmas...

Tier 4 has come to New Amusements, at least it will on Boxing Day (non-sensically - if it needs to happen, it needs to happen now, not after a super-spreading Christmas). And it has been heaving down all day. Seldom has "humbug" felt more appropriate.

But here's Terry de Castro and Such Small Hands, aka Melanie Howard, to spread some Christmas cheer with a pan-Atlantic-yet-locked-down collaboration.

Saturday, 19 December 2020

Absolved

Continuing the aforementioned review and partial cull of my excessive CD collection, I came across a CD that I fully expected to go, Muse's third album Absolution, from 2003. I've got nothing against Muse, and I know they are, or have been, massive (supermassive, you might say) ... but I always found them a bit too bombastic.

Except, after listening back to Absolution for the first time in at least ten years, if not more, well, I quite like it, actually. It survives The Purge, and here's an example of why, the sentiment of which seems very 2020.

Friday, 18 December 2020

Blue Friday: Just A State Of Mind

This is an atypical track from Graham Coxon's 2006 release Love Travels At Illegal Speeds (an album which is, for my money, the best thing any member of Blur has done outside of Blur - sorry Damon).

Thursday, 17 December 2020

A double celebration

It's an auspicious date in the calendar - my best mate's fiftieth birthday and my parents' sixtieth wedding anniversary. Three amazing people with cause to celebrate, I just wish I could celebrate with them, rather than virtually. Anyway, here's a song for each occasion - can you guess which is for The Man of Cheese and which is for the parentals?


"Life is a drink and you get drunk when you're young..."


If not for Alma, I wouldn't exist

Sunday, 13 December 2020

Out of Frames

Continuing the aforementioned review and partial cull of my excessive CD collection, I also stumbled upon The Cost, a 2007 offering from Irish band The Frames. Like Mercury earlier today, it's an album I would have bought to obtain one track, in this case Falling Slowly, which a more emotional, love-blind/love-sick version of me was beguiled by after hearing it in the film Once. Yes, the male lead in Once was Glen Hansard, the same Glen Hansard who fronted The Frames. And yes, female lead Markéta Irglová is the same Markéta Irglová who has a writing credit for Falling Slowly. All these things are true.

But what of the album? Well, it's okay, a little grey, a little whiny in places, a little too earnest, maybe... It's an album that was clearly trying very hard. But it's not an album I need to hear again, I don't think. I doubt I will watch Once again either.

The Purge continues. My Discogs sellers' page continues to fill up. Sales are noticeably absent, but hey. Here's Falling Slowly.

Not taking the Longview

Continuing the aforementioned review and partial cull of my excessive CD collection, I came across Mercury, a 2005 offering from Manc indie kids Longview. It's an album I would have bought to obtain one track, most likely Further, which had been used on a TV programme or advert or something.

It's okay, that track and the album in general, but nothing elevates it. I've been trying to think of the right word to describe it, and all I can come up with is "sludgey", which seems a bit harsh for something that is inoffensive, if unremarkable. I see a sticker on the front of the jewel case boasts of a slew of four- and five-star reviews: "Soaring" said The Times (though beware one-word extracts from reviews); "Should be adored" said Big Issue; "Reminiscent of Joshua Tree-era U2" said Q magazine (though they only gave it three stars). It isn't reminiscent of any era of U2, but Q were right to limit it to three stars. The ingredients might all have been there but somehow they didn't mix quite right...

You can find my copy of Mercury on sale at Discogs, right here. And yes, I appreciate that I'm trying to sell something whilst saying it's not good enough to keep. But anyway... to whet your appetite, here's Further.

I published this at 13/12/2020 12:13. I should get out more, shouldn't I?

Thursday, 10 December 2020

That Was The Year That Was: 2020

2020 one-star review
This is the tenth time I've recapped a year like this (for completists, here are the others), and what a year it has been, one like no other: a year of staying at home, of not being able to see family and friends, of shortages, of privation... of death, for some. Excess death, even, a phrase I never imagined hearing. A year in which the phrase "You're on mute" has gone from ha-isn't-this-all-funny to is-this-bleak-hell-what-life-has-become, and wishing they were muted, in nine short months. Sure, there have been some positives (peace, nature) but they all pretty much ended when the first lockdown was lifted. And to top it all off, it looks like the year is about to end with the whole nation being driven, at speed, by an unqualified, blindfolded driver, straight off the Brexit cliff. It is all, almost, too much to bear ... so it hardly seems worth recapping anything this year but, for the sake of completeness and consistency, here we are. It's going to be very brief - just winners, maybe the occasional runner-up and honourable mention. Why? Well, I've got two thousand and twenty reasons, and besides, nobody really gives a toss about what I think. Yes, that makes this whole post an exercise in futility ... but exercise is good for you, right?

Best album

Such Small Hands
I haven't bought many new albums again this year but, of the few I have, On Sunset by Paul Weller is worth a mention, if a little uneven. I'm also very much enjoying Not From Where I'm Standing, the charity compilation of Bond theme covers by Gedge and friends, and the new Vapors album Together was better than anyone had any right to expect. But the undoubted winner, and my album of the year by some distance, is the fantastic debut from Such Small Hands, Carousel, a delicate slice of melancholia that makes an impact on the first listen and grows on you more and more with every repeat play. A geunine highlight of the year.

Best song

A late entry, here, for We Have All The Time In The World by David Lewis Gedge, from the aforementioned Not From Where I'm Standing. Yes, it's a cover of the Louis Armstrong classic ... and it's also a new addition to the list of potential songs to be played at my funeral, so there's another cheery thought for 2020.

Best gig

Unsurprisingly, it's been a quiet year for gigs. The Vapors, up close and personal, was a lot of fun on a cold, cold Dublin night, just days before the shutters came down on life. Live stream virtual gig highlights included The Wedding Present and Martin Rossiter. But the best actual gig I've been to, and I know this will not go down well with some, was Morrissey at Wembley Arena. I had a great seat and he was on form, what else can I say?

Best book

The Snakes by Sadie Jones
You'll have heard me say this before, but I haven't read as much as I would have liked this year. So much for my Twenty in '20 challenge, right? But from what I have managed to read, Wakenhyrst continued Michelle Paver's run of excellent novels in which isolation plays an important part; likewise If It Bleeds continued Stephen King's run of terrific four-story collections, with a little of something for everyone. My pick of the year though is The Snakes by Sadie Jones whose prose I described at the time as "scalpel-sharp and laser-guided". This unusual story is part family drama, part suspense and entirely gripping.

Best film

Like the rest of the Western world, I haven't really been to the cinema much this year, so Tenet wins almost by default, being the one film I managed to see between lockdowns. It was good, not great, visually impressive but overly complex. I'm all in favour of dialogue being crucial...but I want that dialogue to be clearly audible, not muffled down amongst the sound effects. I'm far from the only person to have noted this problem, so maybe they'll sort it out for the inevitable 4K Ultra HD release.

Best television

The Queen's Gambit
I filled a lot of time, especially in the first lockdown, rewatching old television series on iPlayer. I must give special mention, therefore, to Line of Duty - after watching all five series back-to-back in fairly short order, I can confirm that it remains peerless television, and I'm eagerly awaiting series six. This was also the year the I finally succumbed to Netflix - Ricky Gervais's After Life is excellent. But for new television, my pick of the crop for this year is the same as everyone else's: The Queen's Gambit, also on Netflix, for its note-perfect evocation of the 1960s, its (admittedly questionable) portrayal of a gifted young woman in crisis and a stellar performance from Anya Taylor-Joy as protagonist Beth. Terrific jazz/blues soundtrack too.

Best podcast

A new category, reflecting the fact that I've listened to a lot this year, often whilst trudging round my state-approved daily exercise loop of the village. Both series of the BBC World Service's 13 Minutes to the Moon are beyond brilliant (series one covers Apollo 11, series two covers Apollo 13); however, I can't give them the gong as they're an older offering, made available again for lockdown. I must just flag the magnificence of Hans Zimmer and Christian Lundberg's theme music though, before moving on to ID Louis Theroux's new podcast Grounded as my pod of the year. It's genuinely all good, but the Helena Bonham-Carter, Lenny Henry, Miriam Margolyes and Troy Deeney episodes especially so.

Best sport

What sport? There hasn't been much to cheer about, has there? I enjoyed watching Ronnie O'Sullivan claim a sixth world snooker crown (he's on the SPOTY shortlist, and would be my choice). My best moment though is Liverpool bagging a well-deserved Premier League title - they've been my team since I was a nipper, so I was pleased to see them get the monkey off their back. Yes, I follow the local team now I live close to somewhere that has one, but LFC will always be my first football love.

Person of the year

Jacinda Ardern, please come and run the UK!
Joe Wicks was a contender for his sterling PE supply teacher stint during the first lockdown, as was Marcus Rashford for blindsiding us all with his well-chosen and effective campaigning. But in the end the award, if that's the right word, goes to Jacinda Ardern, 40th prime minister of New Zealand, who just continues to get everything right, whether it's gun control legislation, pandemic response or, you know, just being a human being and empathising with the people she leads. Could she come over here and run us, please?

Tool of the year

Reintroduced for 2020 and, as ever, it's a crowded field. The Donald, for being the world's worst loser (on your bike, son); Gavin Williamson, for anything and everything that emanates from his mouth; Nigel Farage, for just not going away... the list goes on and on. But of course the tool of the year/decade/century is Boris Johnson, whose leadership during the pandemic has been chaotic at best and calamitous at worst, whose blind loyalty to Cummings and Patel shows both poor judgement and moral turpitude, and whose pig-headed stubbornness and intellectual shortcomings are leading us to the worst possible Brexit outcome. Pardon my French but really, what a prick, and what a disaster for us all.

And that's it for another year. Looking back, I see I described 2019 as depressing. Little did I know what was to come. At least we have Biden and Harris in-bound. Anyway, 2020 ... how was it for you?

Monday, 7 December 2020

Don't live miserably

I might have mentioned it already, I forget, but The Wedding Present have joined forces with past and present band members (TWP and Cinerama) to release an album of 20 Bond theme covers. Not From Where I'm Standing is available right now from Awesome Distro and if the premise isn't already enough to sell it to you, what if I added that 100% of profits go to mental health charity CALM, the Campaign Against Living Miserably? Better still, right?

Great "pulp" style (the literary genre, not the Sheffield indie kings) cover too, by the Connor Brothers.

Best of all, though, is the fact that you can buy this album purely on its musical merits - the cause, cover and theme are all bonuses. After an initial run-through, I'm especially loving Simone White's take on Goldfinger, the Cinerama run-through of Diamonds Are Forever, Maria Scaroni's The World Is Not Enough, the Sleeper/Gedge collaboration on Mr Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Shaun Charman's On Her Majesty's Secret Service and Such Small Hands' Skyfall. Album closer We Have All The Time In The World by Gedge, with just an accompanying piano courtesy of Danielle Wadey, is ... well, it's exactly what I need at the tail-end of a pretty wretched year, and is embedded below from within the longer launch event.

You still here? Go on, go treat yourself.

Friday, 4 December 2020

The Unewsual VII - from Goldeneye to goodbye

Unless you're particuarly interested in radio telescopes, you'll probably only know this from Goldeneye. Whatever, it seems a shame that the Arecibo spherical reflector telescope couldn't be saved before it got to this moment...

Astrid survives...

Continuing the aforementioned review and partial cull of my excessive CD collection, I came across Astrid Williamson yesterday. I saw her live on Halloween in 2007, supporting The Wedding Present in Camden, and was a bit smitten, if truth be told (I know, I know...); imagine someone looking like Rosamund Pike and singing like KT Tunstall, and you're in the right ballpark. On the strength of that one gig performance, I have two of her albums, Boy For You and Day of the Lone Wolf. Both are good, neither is exceptional. Day of the Lone Wolf is a definite keeper, being signed with a personal dedication to me after meeting Astrid at the merchandise stand. But what about Boy For You?

On balance, it just makes the cut - just - after some agonising. It's not something I'm going to play often. But it does have memories attached, and that's important. Or maybe I'm still a bit smitten, who knows (or cares)? Either way, here's a sample track ... and if you want to see what has been purged, the slowly growing list is all for sale, right now, via Discogs (and if anyone wonders why I'm selling this it's because I also have this...).

Thursday, 3 December 2020

Some of it has to go

Working from home, as I have for most of this year, has been a mixed blessing. Yes, it has been great to have a bit more time with the family, and to be more flexible with, for want of a better phrase, general life stuff. On the flip side, I have sorely missed cycling to work, and the flapjacks the canteen sells, well I've missed those too, even if my waistline hasn't.

One of the bigget downsides has been that, for the last eight and a half months, I've been working at the dining table, sat on a dining chair, surrounded by clutter. Pretty far from ideal ... but all changed now! We've had a bit of a move around at New Amusements Towers, and have finally changed one of the spare bedrooms into a study. It's a work in progress, for whilst one half of the room now contains a lovely big desk, proper 5-leg swivel chair (that I can even tilt back in) and a filing cabinet (all sourced for bargain prices on Gumtree), the other half of the room is stacked up with boxes and crates of stuff that needs sorting. Fortunately these are all out of shot in Teams calls...

A lot of the crates are full of CDs. My collection is simply too big, literally thousands of CDs. We don't have the space to store them all any more, and some I just wouldn't play any more either, even if they were accessible, rather than packed away in a plastic crate. Some, sadly, have to go. I know it's a purge that I will come to regret but, you know ... life.

So I'm stuck upstairs on my own, in what we previously called "bedroom 2" but now euphemistically call the office (and optimistically call the study), with a laptop in front of me and crate after crate after crate of CDs to my left. Seems like an ideal opportunity to start listening to some of them whilst I work, and sort the wheat from the chaff, with half a plan to sell the chaff on Discogs (anyone got any experience of buying/selling on Discogs, by the way? Any good?)

The first crate I opened starts at the tail-end of the T's, runs through U and V, and into W. There's a hell of a lot of Weller and Wedding Present in there, basically, which is all wheat, by definition. But I've just listened to The Triffids Present The Black Swan. It's fine, but it's not a keeper, for me. Maybe I didn't listen to it enough when I was young, but it has no significance to me, no importance imbued from nostalgia. I think it's going to be chaff. Sadly it is not going to make me rich on Discogs. But if anyone wants to buy a copy in mint condition (only the jewel case has light scuffs), well, you know where to find me.

Here's some Triffids, sadly condemned.

I will, undoubtedly, post other curios from the crates, both wheat and chaff. I'll tag all such posts with "The Purge"...

Tuesday, 1 December 2020

Badvent ... again

It occurs to me that it's nearly Christmas. Once more, I feel disinclined to construct a New Amusements Advent Calendar - sorry about that. They're a lot of work to put together (bah) and finding decent alternative Christmas tunes gets harder every year (humbug). Plus, you know, life has a funny habit of taking the shine off such trivial pursuits... like working from home because you have to. Who wants to hear 24 festive indie tunes when life in general is so utterly bleak?

Anyway... the calendars from previous Christmases are all still here for your listening/viewing pleasure, in case you're feeling jollier than I which, let's face it, is quite likely. Knock yourselves out... oh, and check back on the 24th when I will, at least, post the Christmas hit that wasn't...

Advent 2015   •   Advent 2016   •   Advent 2017

Monday, 30 November 2020

Do you have another opinion?

Much has been written about the trustworthiness, or otherwise, of Amazon reviews. I've certainly been offered incentives from resellers to leave five-star reviews for products (relax, I didn't), so hopefully everyone knows to treat reviews online with caution.

But beyond that, things like this film review don't help much either:

So which is it, five-star or crap? Or is it just really exemplary crap, worthy of five stars?

Anyway... you might have read the title of this post and thought I was going to post a Pixies track. Well, I don't like to disappoint, so here's a demo version of a glorious slice of noise.

Wednesday, 25 November 2020

There's a really decent album in there somewhere...

Back in the day, I had this - both albums together, in their entirety

The Jam's first studio album, In The City, was released on 20th May 1977. It did okay, surfing in the wake of punk and the single of the same name, and reached a highpoint of number 20 in the album chart. In 32 minutes and two seconds, Paul, Bruce and Rick's debut offering was a short, sharp statement of intent, with ten Weller original compositions and a couple of covers.

Their follow-up, This Is The Modern World, was released a barely credible (by today's standards) 182 days later, on 18th November 1977. It followed much the same format - twelve tracks, Vic Coppersmith-Heaven and Chris Parry on production duties, a short running time (31:19) and preceded by a lead-out single of the same name - and had similar chart success, reaching number 22 and eventually selling enough to be certified silver. There were some differences though, certainly being more Mod-revival than (post-)punk. And the songs - two Foxton efforts, a cover and nine original Weller compositions (one of those was co-written with Dave Waller). More than that, though, this was an album on which the band were trying to reach a bit further ... and coming up short.

It's no surprise, then, that This Is The Modern World got quite a critical mauling, silver disc or not, to the extent that the band's third album, November '78's All Mod Cons, really was seen as a last chance to get things right. Luckily for us all, that turned out more than alright. But imagine if it hadn't? The Jam might have become a footnote in musical history and, far from his revered Modfather status, it might have been more a case of "Paul who?"

But here's the thing: take these two short albums, released six short months apart, and put them together, cherry-picking the best bits, and you have one cracker!

Let's pull apart In The City first:

  1. Art School - an absolute statement of intent and philosophy - STAYS
  2. I've Changed My Address - maximum R&B elevated further by pop art guitar after 1m30 - STAYS
  3. Slow Down - a lively, well-chosen cover version but should have been kept for a single B-side - GOES
  4. I Got By In Time - a decent song but doesn't really go anywhere - GOES
  5. Away From The Numbers - in which The Jam sound starts to crystallise, and a recurrent theme emerges - STAYS
  6. Batman theme - yes, it's fun, but there's no place for covering a TV theme here - GOES
  7. In The City - dynamic single and calling card, essential - STAYS
  8. Sounds From The Street - another decent song (spoiler - they all are) but I can live without the falsetto bit - GOES
  9. Non-Stop Dancing - I imagine this played well at early live shows but it doesn't aim high enough - GOES
  10. Time For Truth - musically, if not lyrically, the most mature song on the debut album - STAYS
  11. Takin' My Love - important to showcase the power of the band on a debut album and this rattles along - STAYS
  12. Bricks And Mortar - wearing his social conscience on his sleeve from day one, and imagine a house costing 40 grand... - STAYS

Now let's do the same for This Is The Modern World:

  1. The Modern World - can't not be included, can it? - STAYS
  2. London Traffic - "London traffic, going nowhere, London traffic, polluting the air", etc. Sorry Bruce - GOES
  3. Standards - too rudimentary, feels like they weren't trying - GOES
  4. Life From A Window - you know what I was saying about a band trying to reach a bit further...? - STAYS
  5. The Combine - signposts what was to come on All Mod Cons and with a nice guitar motif late on - STAYS
  6. Don't Tell Them You're Sane - a better effort from Bruce but suffers by comparison - GOES
  7. In The Street, Today - nearly a great early Jam song ... but only nearly - GOES
  8. London Girl - a really interesting lyric from one so young - STAYS
  9. I Need You (For Someone) - but look, he could write Beatley love songs too - STAYS
  10. Here Comes The Weekend - bit hard to remember, in middle age, but the weekend was looked forward to once, wasn't it? - STAYS
  11. Tonight At Noon - one of the best songs on the second album - STAYS
  12. In The Midnight Hour - a decent cover and early live-set staple but no, keep it for a B-side - GOES

So what are we left with? The eagle-eyed amongst you will have spotted that I've chosen fourteen tracks rather than twelve, because the album needs to be a bit longer (and filling more of one side of a C90 - kids, look it up). So that's seven tracks from each album (and all Weller compositions, make of that what you will) - now all I need is a running order. And, without explanation (though there is one, of course, but this post is already getting too long), here's what I've come up with for what could, and perhaps should, have been The Jam's debut album:

A-sideB-side
  1. In The City (2:19)
  2. Art School (2:02)
  3. London Girl (2:40)
  4. I Need You (For Someone) (2:41)
  5. Takin' My Love (2:15)
  6. Bricks And Mortar (2:37)
  7. Away From The Numbers (4:03)
  1. The Modern World (2:31)
  2. I've Changed My Address (3:31)
  3. Life From A Window (2:52)
  4. The Combine (2:20)
  5. Time For Truth (3:10)
  6. Here Comes The Weekend (3:30)
  7. Tonight At Noon (3:01)
18:3720:55

I don't do Spotify, so I can't playlist it for you that way... but I can with YouTube, so without further ado, let me introduce it by saying that, much as I love both the original albums, I think this would have been even better. Ladies and gentleman, I give you This Is The City.

Tuesday, 24 November 2020

The Unewsual VI - the monolith

From BBC News: Metal monolith found by helicopter crew in Utah desert... For what it's worth, this clearly isn't a 2001-style monolith; readers of Clarke's novel will know that the monolith's proportions have a ratio 1:4:9, i.e. the squares of the first three ordinal numbers. Come on, art pranksters, if you're going to stick a monolith in the desert for a laugh, at least do it right...

Thursday, 12 November 2020

The Underappreciated: The First Great Train Robbery

A very occasional series, the purpose of which is to highlight films that are really underappreciated, and that you might get a kick out of viewing. Today, a late Seventies offering from the late Sean Connery.

I've been meaning to write about this film, as part of my Underappreciated series, for a long time, but just haven't got around to it. Well now Sean Connery has died, I really had better get myself in gear. Not that I would imagine for one minute he was waiting for me to write about him...

But anyway, in the wake of his passing it would be all too easy to write about Connery as Bond, his Oscar-winning turn in The Untouchables, The Man Who Would Be King, all the rest... I don't think I've seen anyone mention The First Great Train Robbery in their tributes though, and that's a real shame because it is an absolute cracker!

Connery plays Edward Pierce, charismatic man about London town and master thief. He plans to steal a shipment of gold meant to finance the Crimean War effort... from a moving train. But Pierce, much like Charlie Croker, Danny Ocean and countless others, needs a team to carry this off. His mistress Miriam, wonderfully played by Lesley-Anne Down, is first on-board, swiftly followed by master pickpocket and screwsman Agar (Donald Sutherland). Pierce's chauffeur is also in on the deal, and a train guard is bribed too. Essential to the plot is the recruitment of "Clean" Willy, played by a young Wayne Sleep - Willy is a snakesman, a cat burglar basically. He meets a sticky end too, but that's bordering on a spoiler, so I'll shut up and show you the very-much-of-its-time trailer:

So what makes this so good? What, apart from the starry cast, boys' own plot, crisp script (written and directed by Michael Crichton), Jerry Goldsmith's cracking score and a wonderful cinematic evocation of Victorian London? Aside from all that, you mean? It's even a Dino De Laurentis production, for goodness' sake, and if that doesn't give you a Proustian rush I don't know what will.

But more than that, I get a sense from this film that no-one put a foot wrong making it; everyone, from Connery right down to the minor players, is on form. I also get a sense that the cast had fun making this, and why not? This is a script shot through with humour, and with plenty of opportunity to make the most, in comic asides, of Victorian versions of modern tropes (like the 100mph Club, rather than the Mile High Club). Oh, and playboy Pierce gets to play innuendo bingo, in a scene that could be right out of Carry On:

And whilst this film is, like any good caper, primarily terrific fun, there are darker moments too... so sod spoilers, here's that moment when Clean Willy gets his comeuppance for turning snitch on Pierce and his well-tailored crew:

And there's so much more! Lesley-Anne Down's Miriam adopting multiple personae, Donald Sutherland's turn in a coffin, Clean Willy's jailbreak, the acquisition of the safe keys (one of which features the longest 75 seconds in cinematic history!), the robbery itself, the denouement... I could go on. But I won't, other than to say if you're a bit fed up with Lockdown II (The Corona Strikes Back) and have exhausted your box-sets, well, do yourself a favour, put the heating on, get comfy in your favourite chair and watch this instead - it's terrific! It's on Netflix and Prime Video for starters. I saw one reviewer call this the best Sean Connery film you've never seen, and he's right... but you can remedy your oversight right now...

Separated at birth IX - Lee Cain and Blofeld

No 10's suddenly-departed former Commuincations Officer Lee Cain
No 10's suddenly-departed former Commuincations Officer Lee Cain

I was not surprised to read that Lee Cain had quit working for Boris. No doubt he realised that rather than working with wannabe-Bond villains like Johnson and Dominic Cummings, he might as well set up his own hollowed-out volcano...

Thorn in Bond's side Ernst Stavro Blofeld
Thorn in Bond's side Ernst Stavro Blofeld

Previous separations at birth

Size is everything

It's four years and two months since I last changed my mobile phone. I'm only changing now because the battery in my old one doesn't hold a charge properly anymore, and is not replaceable. So... the battle to find a small, i.e. pocket-friendly phone was rejoined. And boy, it was hard. Seems that now, more than ever, bigger is seen as better when it comes to smartphones. Annoying... but time to update the mobile timeline, regardless. Here it is:

The most compact phone I could find, with the spec I require, is 8mm taller than the phone it has replaced. Oh well.

Because these photographs are inexplicably popular (in web searches, at least) they have their own label so, for completists (!) here are the previous posts in the series.

Monday, 2 November 2020

Twenty in '20: The Psychology of Time Travel

I've read far less in recent years than I would like. To help remedy this, I've set myself the modest target of reading twenty books in 2020. When I finish one, a thumbnail review here will follow.

11/20: The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas

The blurb: 1967. Four female scientists invent a time travel machine. But then one of them suffers a breakdown and puts the whole project in peril...

2017. Ruby knows her Granny Bee was the scientist who went mad, but they never talk about it. Until they receive a message from the future, warning of an elderly woman's violent death...

2018. Odette found the dead women at work – shot in the head, door bolted from the inside. Now she can't get her out of her mind. Who was she? And why is everyone determined to cover up her murder?

The review: I'm a sucker for a well-written or inventive time travel tale, and that's what led me to read a story by an author with whom I was unfamiliar. But maybe I'm in the minority in this respect, because if you just made your purchasing decision based on the blurb, you'd think that this was primarily a murder mystery tale, wouldn't you? Albeit one with a twist.

The thing is, whilst the whodunnit works well enough, without being outstanding, what does stand out in Mascharenas's novel is the inventiveness of imagining a world in which time travel has become routine, a commercial activity, governed with rules and organisations - a world in which "time traveller" is a career choice, a vocation with its own slang, initiation rites, protocols and faux pas. This aspect of the novel is very well realised, not least through the inclusion of two appendices, one a glossary of time travelling terminology and another detailing the psychometric tests that time travellers have to go through.

So, I said I was a sucker for a well-written or inventive time travel tale, and this is certainly inventive ... but is it well written too? Well ... for the most part, yes, it's pretty fair. Having said that, Mascarenhas is a little too prone to making bald statements - she tells, rather than shows. And maybe I just didn't notice it at the start, but it seemed to me that this overt storytelling increased as the novel progressed. It was almost like either the author or her editor got tired of making the subtle changes that would be necessary to remedy the problem (and it did become problematic, at times, for me).

Another point of note with The Psychology of Time Travel is that just about every protagonist is female - I'm trying to think of one significant male character, and am failing. This stands out, and is welcome, though it did make for little variation in the romantic and sexual sub-plots. It is refreshing ... but it feels like it's pushing at the bounds of credulity. Of course I accept that I'm a middle-aged man, with a whole host of subconscious preconceptions and biases ... but I do think that an invention of such global impact and significance, made by four women in the 1960s, would almost certainly have been subsumed by the patriarchy by 2018, sadly...

The bottom line: a decent book that describes a time-travelling world in a very satisfying way, with a serviceable if unremarkable murder-mystery tagged on.

Since everything online is rated these days: ★★★★☆☆

Thursday, 22 October 2020

It's good to be sceptical

James Randi has died. It comes as no great shock - he was 92, after all, but I'm sad nonetheless, for Randi was something of a hero to me.

Starting his career as a magician, he quickly developed a style in which he told the audience that he was tricking them, rather than performing magic. It seemed a logical progression, then, to move from performing tricks to debunking others who claimed that they were magical, or paranormal or, in the case of Peter Popoff, receiving messages from God. Randi famously exposed Uri Geller on TV in the Seventies as a complete chancer (hooray!) - but it speaks volumes about people's gullibility and willingness (desperation?) to believe in something (anything?) that Geller continues to profit from his bunkum to this day (boo!). Depressingly, even Popoff was able to make a comeback. There will always be some who prefer snake oil to science, I guess...

A few years ago there was a BBC Storyville documentary about James that is most definitely worth watching. It's currently unavailable on the iPlayer, sadly, but you never know, they might reshow it now he's died, so keep an eyes on those BBC4 schedules. There's also the film An Honest Liar, which covers a lot of the same ground (and takes its title from a decription Randi applied to himself as a trickster who was open about the fact that he was tricking...)

There's oodles on YouTube too, of course... like his TED talk, for example:

And there's loads more. You can do your own search, I guess. You won't regret it, but you might find you've been on YouTube a lot longer than you'd planned. Sorry (not sorry) about that.

Oh, and James's One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge, which offered a prize of a million US dollars to anyone who could demonstrate evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event under test conditions agreed to by both parties, remained unclaimed at the time of his death. James Randi, RIP, after a life well led.

Monday, 19 October 2020

Public service announcement

Pixies had a new single out on Friday, co-penned and sung by non-Deal bassist Paz Lenchantin. And it's alright, maybe even a slow-burn grower.

If you're interested in this, or the T-Rex cover on the B-side, you can pick it up from the band's merch site, right here.

Wednesday, 14 October 2020

About sadness

For obvious reasons, I've been at home a lot more this year than might otherwise have been the case. And unlike all the worthy individuals who have used their extra time at home to get jobs done or learn new skills, I seem to have pissed most of the time away. Although since I feel like I'm always either busy or tired, have I really had so much free time? Probably not, but that's not the point I'm here to make. Because what I have done, what I have found the time for, is watch television.

First off, I rewatched all five series of Line of Duty. It's brilliant, such an accomplished and cohesive long-form body of work, and a credit to all involved. But you know that already.

I've also started rewatching Heroes, courtesy of iPlayer. It seemed groundbreaking when it started back in 2006; now, not so much. I raced through the first series, and am now remembering that the second series is where it started feeling like they were making it up as they went along. I don't know yet if I will persevere through series 3 and 4. But the first series was good. Anyway, I digress - I don't want to talk about that either.

There are two programmes I do want to talk about though. The first is Us, the recent four-part BBC adaptation of David Nicholls's novel of the same name. As you would hope/expect of a drama starring Tom Hollander and Saskia Reeves, it's very watchable. The second programme (and I appreciate that I'm a little late to the party here) is Ricky Gervais's After Life, on Netflix. Now I appreciate that Gervais can be something of a Marmite figure, but I think he can be terrific... and, whisper it quietly, I think After Life - the tale of a widower's struggle with grief and depression - might just be the best thing he's done.

So, aside from both being TV programmes that I have watched recently (still watching, in the case of After Life), why have I bracketed these two shows together? Well, they are both very sad programmes to watch, albeit in different ways. Warning: mild spoilers ahead. Us concerns the breakdown and dissolution of a 25yr relationship between straight-laced scientist Douglas and artistic free-spirit Connie, whose marriage cannot survive the adulthood and departure of their son, Albie. Now that feels terribly sad to me; okay, so divorce rates suggest it will resonate with many, perhaps regretfully, perhaps painfully. But I imagine it may be even sadder for couples or families watching who perhaps fear they are glimpsing their future. But it's sad with a BBC/bestselling twist or two, for light is left at the end of the tunnel for the protagonists, with the suggestion of new relationships for them both. Better still, in the course of the show Douglas rescues his relationship with his son. So it's a terribly sad reflection of modern life, but with an upbeat twist that enables you to watch it and still feel okay by the end of part four (unless, presumably, you are one of those viewers foreseeing their own future).

And then there's After Life. Gervais plays Tony, struggling with colossal grief after the death of his wife. To make matters worse, his father resides in a care home, where some form of cognitive failure renders him unable to recognise his son. It's a grim combination indeed (and if you've read my novel, you'll know I've explored similar themes myself - still waiting for the call from Netflix, mind). It's very different to Us - no punches are pulled and, though I still have the last episode of series two to come, there's little in the way of positive endings on display. It's hard watching in places, as Tony's grief plays out before us in high definition. He is suicidal, and we're shown that, unexpurgated. You might think that sounds unpleasant viewing, but you'd be wrong - uncomfortable, yes, but compelling. I guess everyone's experience of grief is different, but this feels plausible. Awful, but relatable.

So two very different programmes but with one thing in common - the sadness they portray, the heartache and hreatbreak, the misery ... is seductive. Gervais touches on this in After Life, with Tony observing that he was been wallowing in his grief because it's comfortable - he knows where he is with it. For him, moving on, leaving his sadness behind, is inconceivable - it has so consumed him that it has become him, and the idea of feeling okay again is scarier than remaining depressed.

Coincidence or deliberate, I wonder, that Tony's pet is a black dog?

I don't have any conclusions to end with, sorry. Just watch both programmes, they're better than their trailers. And don't wallow; that way lies disaster.

Tuesday, 13 October 2020

Time-Capsule TV II - John Noakes interviews Ronnie Barker

Ask anyone about John Noakes and they'll talk about elephants relieving themselves in the Blue Peter studio, climbing Nelson's Column on a rickety wooden ladder and Shep. But there was a lot more to him, Blue Peter and children's television in general, back in the 70s, as this clip illustrates. There's so much to love here, from John rocking up at Elstree in a grubby white Marcos Mantula, having a chat with the uniformed security guard on the barrier, having a tour of the Porridge set and finally sitting down to interview the comedy genius that was Ronnie Barker. I think what's most noticeable, for me, is that John didn't talk down to the Blue Peter audience - this could just as easily be a piece for an adult magazine show (and is certainly more watchable than the dross that gets served up on The One Show and similar). Also, note how there was no need to drown the piece in intrusive backing music, as is usually the case on kids' TV these days.

What else? Aside from John and Ronnie, there's Richard Beckinsale, Fulton Mackay, Ronald Lacey and, behind the camera, Sydney Lotterby. All gone now, of course, but then this was 1977.

Forget kid's TV, I'd watch this now. And keep watching, and listening carefully, around 7m15 - John asks Fulton if he gets any reaction from prison warders, not anything else, however it might sound...

Thursday, 8 October 2020

Everyone's getting old

Having read Jez's post over at A History of Dubious Taste yesterday, I had to remind myself that Susanna Hoffs (insert obligatory "sigh" here) is 61. Christ. How is that even possible?

To add insult to injury, I've just remembered that today is Sigourney Weaver's birthday. Her 71st birthday...

Happy birthday Ripley (and the anti-Ripley...)

Night watchman

Here's a curious thing.

I have quite a lot of watches. None of them are particularly rare or collectable or even expensive (I think the dearest was £108 new, twenty years ago). But I like watches, and can't bear to part with them. I wear a watch every single day, and feel naked without one. Example: aged 16, starting my first Saturday job at a now-defunct department store, through nerves I forgot to put my watch on, and only realising half way there. In a panic, I borrowed Mum's slightly feminine (though all black, at least) Casio digital and wore it for the rest of the day, rather than be watchless. Similarly, a few years later on a lads' holiday to Spain, quite early in the week the waterproof seal on my watch failed, and so did the watch after a dip in the pool; I then wore a non-functioning watch for the rest of the holiday week, rather than have a bare wrist.

So I am tied to wristwatches, in a way that the youth of today are not. Why wear an anachronism when you can just look at your phone screen to tell the time, right?

Anyway, one of my watches is a metal analogue, powered by a kinetic mechanism. I used to wear it to work, back in the dim and distant past of actually going into the office rather than working from home. It was my work/formal watch, because it is quite smart (or was - the tale of how I scraped the edge off one corner of the crystal face is a little too, erm, racy for this blog post). However, it has been lying, unworn, by my bedside since mid-March. The kinetic mechanism, by which the wearer's movement charges the battery, ran down in May, so it isn't even telling the time at the moment (other than twice a day, ha ha). But I digress; last night, I went to bed and, as ever, the last thing I did before getting under the covers was take off the watch I had been wearing all day, a solar-powered digital confection that is my casual/active/knockabout watch. And when I woke up this morning, six hours later... I was wearing my work watch. Some how, at some point in the night, I had reached out in the dark, found the watch and strapped it on, no mean feat in itself given that I was asleep and the watch has a locking fold-over clasp. Weird, eh? I've never sleepwalked or anything like that before... but I quite like the idea of putting a watch on in my sleep. And all without moving enough to restart the kinetic battery mechanism...

This watch-based nonsense is all the excuse I need to post a live performance of Watcher of the Skies by Gabriel-era Genesis. Always good to remind ourselves just how "out there" they, and particularly Gabriel, were back then. Multi-coloured, sequinned cape? Check. White gloves? Check. Bald stripe shaved down the middle of the head? Check. Giant, er, bat wings sprouting from behind the ears? Ch... jesus, Peter! Anyway, here it is. I love early Genesis like this. You might not (probably won't) though, so... sorry... Regardless, what's the weirdest thing you've done in your sleep?

Monday, 5 October 2020

Time-Capsule TV I - The Style Council review the morning's papers

This might be the start of a new blog theme, even if only sporadically. YouTube throws up all kinds of weird and wonderful blasts from the past, things that I forgot even happened. I might embed a few, not least because it's a quick and easy way of keeping the blog ticking over without too much effort on my part (which sits perfectly with my current mood and interest levels).

To kick off, here are Paul Weller and Mick Talbot from The Style Council appearing with Partridge-favourite Sue Cook on BBC Breakfast Time (not TV-am, as the video's title suggests), reviewing the day's newspapers. Yes, really. Paul doesn't seem too pleased to be there and looks, the way he's sitting, to be in physical discomfort. Mick, on the other hand, is a bit more engaged, although seems mindful of the need to maintain a healthy cynicism. And poor Sue seems to be struggling with Paul's antipathy. I'm not sure who thought this was a good idea, but it's real time-capsule television, not least because I'd forgotten about the fuss that Come To Milton Keynes generated. Anyway, here it all is, from 1985 - how we used to live, eh?

Friday, 2 October 2020

What's not to like?

I make no apologies for what amounts to just another embedded-video-without-context post (even though I've served up loads of those lately). For here are The Wedding Present and Louise Wener, performing a previously unreleased Sleeper song in a locked down, stripped back session for At The Edge Of The Sofa. And it's a song about being together (well, sort of... or not... maybe should be together, at least...er...)

Anyway, what's not to like?

And if you don't enjoy the chorus harmonies between Louise and David, for example 46 seconds in, well, there's basically no hope for you...

Wednesday, 30 September 2020

Clandestine Classic LXIII - French Disko

The sixty-third 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.

I'm going to let you into a little secret: I'm not hip, not trendy, don't have my finger on the pulse. Never have, never will. And that's completely fine ... but it does mean that the act featured in today's post, Stereolab, basically passed me by when they were in their early 90s pomp. I was, in fact, spending a lot of time relying on Suede to fill the post-Smiths gap I still felt (although Brett and Bernard were only really marking time for me, until Gene came along and I could really fall in love with a band again). Whatever, you can read between the lines and see that I was in a guitar-led, literate, occasionally fey, indie bubble. Stereolab didn't fit, ergo they passed me by. I have always been parochial, it seems.

My first real exposure came in the form of the splendidly title Lo Boob Oscillator, when that was featured on the High Fidelity soundtrack. I would struggle to name a soundtrack I've listened to more but that's a whole other blog post. Lo Boob Oscillator is notable for singer Laetitia Gane's Nico-esque delivery, French lyrics, slight 60s vibe and repetitive beats. But it's not that track I want to talk about.

Stereolab would have remained a likeable soundtrack curio for me then, if not for 6 Music, and a recent playing of today's classic, French Disko. This one's sung in English, and features vocal interplay between Laetitia and guitarist Mary Hansen. The other hallmarks are there: vintage keyboards, repetitive rhythms, almost droning vocals. But what, you might reasonably ask, elevates a song that's more than 25 years old but that I've only just discovered to Clandestine Classic status? Well, for a start, the lyrics aren't messing about:

Though this world's essentially an absurd place to be living in
It doesn't call for bubble withdrawal
I've been told it's a fact of life, men have to kill one another
Well I say there are still things worth fighting for
La resistance!

Though this world's essentially an absurd place to be living in
It doesn't call for bubble withdrawal
It's said human existence is pointless
As acts of rebellious solidarity can bring sense in this world
La resistance!
La resistance!

Very "now", arent they, for lyrics written in 1992/3? And that's the thing, really, more than just the lyrics - this feels utterly timeless. Maybe the vintage instruments coupled with a more modern pace threw me off slightly but when I first heard this on the radio, not knowing who it was or what it was called, my first reaction was to think this was a new band, a new sound. Imagine my surprise, then, on doing the research, to discover its age, and that of some of the instruments being played. I know this probably reflects on me, and the fact that I'm a white, middle-aged, lower-middle-class man living in the sticks, but to me this sounds, if not "now" then at least how I would like "now" to sound. It is, I would contend, truly timeless, in the best sense of the word.

I still don't know much about Stereolab but I am, as Henry Kelly used to say, playing catch-up (compilation Oscillons from the Anti-Sun looks a good place to start, and includes French Disko). Whilst I do that, here's today's classic, courtesy of the modern miracle/curse that is YouTube, plus a contemporary live version from The Word (because it is excellent, and because watching The Word makes me feel young). I spoil you, you know?

Friday, 25 September 2020

Half heard

You know when you catch a song on the radio, just a snippet, and you think, "Oh, I like that, wonder who it is?" Well, long gone are the days when you had to listen out for a repeat play or trying humming/lala-ing the bit you could remember to your mate. If you couldn't read the track info from your RDS or DAB radio, there's always the station website to see what was played.

All of which is a pre-cursor to me saying that this morning I heard a snatch of a song on the radio and thought, "Oh, I like that, wonder who it is? Sounds a bit like Doves but not a tune I recognise." By the miracle of the 6Music website I now know exactly who and what it was.

Reader, it was Doves. Specifically, this.

First I've heard of any of the new material. Alright, isn't it? Although when I heard it, I really hoped it wasn't Doves because then I would have potentially discovered a new artist that I like, rather than recycling my same old parochial taste. Oh well ... life, eh?

Sunday, 20 September 2020

Three questions

Here's your semi-regular reminder that we're all in a whole heap of trouble...

Remember Tony Benn identifying five questions to ask of anyone in power? Well I think we're all going to have to start asking ourselves three questions about everything - everything - we do in life, whether that's the obvious stuff like personal transport choices and energy providers right down to the small stuff, like which brand of loo roll to buy and how ethically your margarine of choice is made. And these are those questions:

  1. What's the environmental impact of this decision?
  2. How can I reduce that impact?
  3. How can I offset what I can't reduce?

We need to ask ourselves (1) about everything we do, especially when it comes to voting. And we need to take appropriate action based on our answers to (2) and (3). I mean, we're probably all buggered anyway, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try to turn things around.

Sorry, thanks for indulging me. The usual unstructured waffle abbout music, books and the rest will return soon.

Friday, 18 September 2020

Carousel

Such Small HandsCarousel, the debut album from Such Small Hands, is released today ... and it's wonderful.

Such Small Hands is, as I may have mentioned here before, Melanie Howard, bassist with The Wedding Present. But don't expect her album to sound anything like her Gedge-based day-job. For Carousel is a collection of delicate melancholia, all minor-keys and gentle arrangements. Mel describes her sound thus: "Taking in influences including Bjork, Portishead, Chelsea Wolfe, Sharon Van Etten, Anna Calvi and Joni Mitchell, Such Small Hands blends dark pop with twinges of quirky folk and electronica" ... to that list, I would add that there's something about Mel's beautiful, slightly breath-y, layered vocals that reminds me of 90s 4AD darlings Lush - this is a good thing.

It's also quite filmic and is easy to imagine many (most?) of these tracks in soundtrack use. I also cannot wait to take these songs out on a lone, late-night drive: just clear, starry skies, empty roads and Carousel on repeat play. A potentially perfect combo.

Here's a track that's fairly representative of the album as a whole - track 3, Drifter:

Carousel by Such Small Hands

I know there are three months to go, but I'm calling this as my album of the year already - it's an incredible, delicate, beautiful thing, and listening to it feels like holding a ebon butterfly in cupped hands.

How about you, like what you've heard? Then hurry along to Mel's Such Small Hands Bandcamp page where a whole host of delights awaits. You can thank me later.

Wednesday, 16 September 2020

About essential albums

We've all done it at some point - by we I mean bloggers - and the music press and broadsheet reviews sections do it even more; by it I mean describe an album as "essential": an essential listen, an essential purchase, or maybe, for variety, a must-have. But the collective we is very bold, arrogant even, in so-doing. For one reviewer's essential is another listener's disposal...

Take the new Paul Weller album, On Sunset. It's very good (except for the faintly ridiculous Ploughman but Craig has covered that already at Plain or Pan) and I've enjoyed listening to it, multiple times. But it's hardly essential. So I got to wondering, what was the last album of Weller's that I considered an absolute must-have? This might be a controversial opinion, and I say this as a massive fan of the Modfather's entire career and as someone who's seen him live more times than I care to remember... but I think the last essential Weller album was probably Stanley Road.

Yes, yes, I know, what about Heavy Soul? Sonik Kicks? A Kind Revolution? All great, in different ways, and there are many other albums in the 25 years since Stanley that deserve a listen (because yes, I bought them all). But essential? Records that I could honestly lay down on the table between us and say "You must listen to this!" about? No. I don't think so. Brilliant though he is, no.

I'm not opening this up for debate, or hoping that someone will make the case for this or any other album, because essential status is necessarily subjective - your list will be different to mine. I have a friend whose musical taste aligns so closely to mine that it renders a Venn diagram redundant, and he would probably argue that the last essential Weller album was Snap! but that's another matter.

The thing is, I think the definition of essential needs to be time-sensitive, in that the records we find essential are those that were important to us at a time in our lives when music was essential, before life/work/settling down/mortgages and the rest pushed it down the priority list. So Stanley Road came out in June 1995, when I was 24 - every release since then has had more to compete with in my head.

I did a blog series a while back called Every Home Should Have One, which might be construed as a list of essential albums. Tellingly, only nine of the 68 titles listed were from the 21st Century... or maybe I'm just parochial?

Anyway, here's a couple of live Weller performances: the first is Whirlpool's End, as performed on Later, promoting Stanley Road; the second is a lockdown session version of Village, promoting On Sunset.

I will always love Weller, that doesn't change. And maybe, just maybe, I don't consider anything essential any more.

Friday, 11 September 2020

When is a riddle not a riddle?

When it's a joke...

The conversation went something like this:

HUMAN: Alexa, tell me a riddle please.
ALEXA:  What has four legs but only one foot? (Pause) A bed.
HUMAN: Alexa, please tell me another riddle.
ALEXA:  How many surrealists does it take to change a lightbulb?

Now this is a joke, isn't it? And when I was a kid, the answer to this, the punchline, was Fish. But times have moved on, clearly, because...

ALEXA:  Two. One to hold the giraffe and the other to fill a bath-tub with brightly coloured power tools.

Which is pretty funny, actually. But it's not a riddle, Alexa. Keep working on those algorithms, Jeff et al.

Thursday, 10 September 2020

Only she could convince James Bond to tie the knot...

Just going to leave this compilation of Parky interviews with Diana Rigg here, along with an iconic Avengers image that I had on a t-shirt in my youth.

Wit, opinion, personality ... Emma Peel for real. Diana Rigg, RIP.

Wednesday, 9 September 2020

50 years of song: 2010-2019

I am 50 (and, through careful planning, this is my 1,000th blog post). I can scarcely believe it. To mark the passing of time, and all of its sickening crimes, I've been counting down (or, rather, up, I suppose) the tracks that were number 1 in the charts on my birthday, starting from the day I was born and working up to the present.

What is #1 today, for 2020? I don't care really, the charts are irrelevant to me now. Anyway, here goes - part five:

  1. Please Don't Let Me Go - Olly Murs: I couldn't even hum you the chorus of this...
  2. Stay Awake - Example: ...or this
  3. Let Me Love You (Until You Learn To Love) - Ne-Yo: ...or this
  4. Roar - Katy Perry: ...I know this one though!
  5. Prayer in C - Lilly Wood & Robin Schulz: Sorry, back to not having a clue on this one...
  6. What Do You Mean - Justin Bieber: ...or this (2.1bn YouTube views or not)
  7. Closer - Chainsmokers featuring Halsey: ...or this
  8. Look What You Made Me Do - Taylor Swift: ...but I know this one - well done me!
  9. Promises - Calvin Harris and Sam Smith: ...and this one, sort of
  10. Take Me Back To London - Ed Sheeran featuring Stormzy: ...but I have no recollection of this. Two of the biggest stars of the decade and I had no clue about this song until now.

I shouldn't be too hard on myself, I guess. I'm 50, the singles chart should have very little to do with me, or me with it. Such is the way of the world. If I'm honest I don't really want to embed any of the tracks this week but, for the sake of completeness, I can include this on the basis that I grudgingly have a bit of a soft spot for Taylor Swift, I suppose.

If I live to 100 and blogs are still a thing (both unlikely), I'll do this again...

Source: officialcharts.com

Wednesday, 2 September 2020

50 years of song: 2000-2009

I will be 50 soon. I can scarcely believe it. To mark the passing of time, and all of its sickening crimes, I'm going to be counting down (or, rather, up, I suppose) the tracks that were number 1 in the charts on my birthday, starting from the day I was born and working up to the present.

What will be #1 on my 50th? I don't care really - chances are I'll loathe it anyway. Anyway, here goes - part four:

  1. Take On Me - A1: awful (and a bad cover version)
  2. Mambo No.5 - Bob the Builder: awful (and a bad cover version)
  3. The Tide is High (Get the Feeling) - Atomic Kitten: awful (and a bad cover version)
  4. Where is the Love? - Black Eyed Peas: not a cover version, at least
  5. My Place/Flap Your Wings - Nelly: I have no recollection of this
  6. Dare - Gorillaz: not Dirty Harry, but not bad
  7. Sexyback - Justin Timberlake: I feel dirty saying it, but I don't mind this
  8. Beautiful Girls - Sean Kingston: no, me neither
  9. I Kissed A Girl - Katy Perry: God, this was twelve years ago? Cherry Chapstick indeed...
  10. Run This Town - Jay-Z featuring Rihanna and Kanye West: I have no recollection of this either

I think I stopped listening to the charts around the turn of the millennium and, on this evidence, that was a good call. Here's the only track I would want to listen to again out of that sorry lot. Hobson's Choice. Tune in next week for ten even worse tunes.

Source: officialcharts.com

Wednesday, 26 August 2020

50 years of song: 1990-1999

I will be 50 soon. I can scarcely believe it. To mark the passing of time, and all of its sickening crimes, I'm going to be counting down (or, rather, up, I suppose) the tracks that were number 1 in the charts on my birthday, starting from the day I was born and working up to the present.

What will be #1 on my 50th? I don't care really - chances are I'll loathe it anyway. Anyway, here goes - part three:

  1. The Joker - The Steve Miller Band: amazing what a jeans ad could do for a song, back then
  2. (Everything I Do) I Do It For You - Bryan Adams: well, it was #1 for most of the year, wasn't it?
  3. Rhythm is a Dancer - Snap!: at least this kept that awful cover of Baker Street off the top
  4. Mr Vain - Culture Beat: utter shite. Wasn't this a peak Britpop year?
  5. Love Is All Around - Wet Wet Wet: begat a slew of bad karaoke Pellow impressions
  6. You Are Not Alone - Michael Jackson: God, I don't remember the 90s being this bad
  7. Flava - Peter Andre: I'm sorry, I can't help the day I was born on
  8. The Drugs Don't Work - The Verve: funny how movements in popular culture filter down to the charts as they are ending, isn't it?
  9. Bootie Call - All Saints: all vest-tops and camo trousers, more like
  10. Mambo No.5 (A Little Bit Of) - Lou Bega: appropriate way to end a terrible selection of songs

Wait, what? No Blur? No Oasis? No Suede? No Pulp? What a sorry selection from the decade of Britpop! There's only one choice for this week's embed, isn't there? And I really feel this is only going to get worse over the next two weeks...

Source: officialcharts.com