Wednesday 27 July 2022

Separated at birth X - Gaten Matarazzo and Micky Dolenz

Gaten MatarazzoGaten MatarazzoHaven't done one of these for an absolute age, but it struck me recently that Stranger Things star Gaten Matarazzo, left, would be a shoo-in to play the young Micky Dolenz, right, should anyone ever get around to making a Monkees biopic... got to happen eventually, right? I'd watch it.

Speaking of Monkees biopics, if you haven't seen the B&W video on YouTube of Davy, Peter, Micky and Mike's pre-casting screen tests, you really should (stick with it, it's not all silent).

Tuesday 26 July 2022

Twenty-two in '22: Boy About Town

I've set myself modest reading targets in each of the last three years and failed every time (I managed 17 books in '19, 11 in '20 and 18 in '21), so I'm determined to read twenty two books in 2022. I'll review them all here.

Boy About Town by Tony Fletcher

8/22: Boy About Town by Tony Fletcher

The blurb:

As a boy, Tony Fletcher frequently felt out of place. Yet somehow he secured a ringside seat for one of the most creative periods in British cultural history.

Boy About Town tells the story of the bestselling author’s formative years in the pre- and post-punk music scenes of London, counting down, from fifty to number one: attendance at seminal gigs and encounters with musical heroes; schoolboy projects that became national success stories; the style culture of punks, mods and skinheads and the tribal violence that enveloped them; life as a latchkey kid in a single-parent household; weekends on the football terraces in a quest for street credibility; and the teenage boy’s unending obsession with losing his virginity.

Featuring a vibrant cast of supporting characters (from school friends to rock stars), and built up from notebooks, diaries, interviews, letters, and issues of his now legendary fanzine Jamming!, Boy About Town is an evocative, bittersweet, amusing and wholly original account of growing up and coming of age in the glory days of the 1970s.

The review: this book was passed to me by The Man Of Cheese; he attached a note that observed "Some parts of this struck a chord with out younger (and finer!) years." And that's all the review really needs to say, for whilst this is Tony Fletcher's memoir, the joy in reading it comes from recognition and identification. Okay, Tony is six or so years older than TMOC and myself, so the bands and scenes discussed in Boy About Town don't align exactly with those that we enjoyed in our youth but the feelings, the interests, the passions - they are pretty much identical. Reading this book, then, gives Proustian rush after Proustian rush.

For someone more famed for writing highly regarded rock biographies, Fletcher still hits the mark writing about himself. There is a blunt honesty in his recollections of youth and teenage years - no sugar-coating, no sanitising. This book is all the better for it. And of course we can all identify with falling in love with bands - The Who first, for Tony, and then The Jam. That feeling of them being your band - we've all been there, haven't we? (Who am I kidding - I'm still there).

What distinguishes Fletcher's memoir, indeed sets it apart from other "my youth in fandom" books, is the turn his young life took when he decided to start a fanzine. It's easy, now, to think of fanzines as little more than A4 photocopied blogs, but they were so much more important then, when the music press was so narrow, and other exposure (TV and radio) narrower still. Tony started Jamming! at 13, running off a hundred copies on a school mimeograph. By the time it wound up, Jamming! sold 30,000 copies a month. Incredible.

What's even more incredible is the access the young Fletcher got to his heroes. He met Keith Moon, interviewed Pete Townshend. And then there was Paul - an exchange of letters led to friendship with Weller, and the sort of access to the band that saw Fletcher and his mates hanging out at the recording studio with the band, even hearing new material before the mainstream music press. And as a thirteen year old fanzine editor, routinely finding his way backstage at all manner of gigs, in all manner of venues - again, incredible. An astonishing time to be a music fan. Oh, and a parallel thread tells of the author's aspirations with his own band - he was a very busy young man.

For all the amazing experiences Fletcher has growing up in the seventies, the more mundane or regular aspects of his teen life are also captured - football, school, girls, parties, drinking and smoking, fighting, all of it. I rather suspect this will appeal to male readers more than female, but it's all relatable, and harkens back to a simpler, happier time. I loved reading it, even though it also made me feel old, stale and well past my prime.

As I hinted earlier, Fletcher went on from his fanzine beginnings to establish a career writing, including pretty much definitive works on Keith Moon and REM. He also (eventually) had minor success with his band, Apocalypse, enough to warrant a "best of" from Cherry Red some years later. My only real criticism of this book then is that it leaves unfinished business, ending as it does with Fletcher playing a valedictory gig at his school as he finishes the fifth form, and then finally getting laid at a party. But there's more I want to know - how did Jamming! go on to get so big, for starters? What happened with the independent record label he set up and ran with/for Paul Weller? And how did Apocalypse go from playing pubs and a school hall to releasing singles? All that and more. I guess what I'm saying is, I enjoyed Boy About Town so much, I'm ready for volume two.

The bottom line: a very enjoyable read that is equal parts nostalgia-inducing memoir and first-hand account of a fascinating time in modern music - bring on the next instalment!

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

Footnote: you can read more about Tony, his books and the history of Jamming! at plus, after not quite breaking through with Apocalypse, he's making music again, as part of The Dear Boys. Yes, he remains that much of a Moon fan...

Saturday 23 July 2022


I don't know about you but I've been watching The Outlaws on BBC1, the Stephen Merchant-powered comedy about an unlikely gang thrown together by community service. It's funny, sometimes silly, occasionally dark, but generally pretty good. I'm a bit behind though, and am only half-way through Series 2. Hooray for iPlayer, right?

Anyway, episode 3 began with a visual catch-up montage, set to a jaunty tune that sort of rang a bell but I couldn't place it. Acoustically (if not vocally) it sounded a little bit like a Lee Mavers knock-off, or maybe an obscure out-take by The Coral or Lilys. Certainly it felt a little like a 60s pastiche, but still contemporary. Bottom line: I liked it but couldn't place it.

Later, I tried all the usual websites - TuneFind is usually best for ID'ing TV and movie soundtracks, I think - but none had anything for Series 2. In the end I had to go back to iPlayer, watch the start of episode 3 again, make a note of some key lyrics, and then search for those. Which is how I found this...

Love it! Salesman was the opening track on The Monkees' fourth album, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd, by which time (1967) they were starting to play more of their own instruments, and even contribute some songwriting. Not this though - it was penned by one Craig Smith, who had previously written for Glen Campbell and Andy Williams, of all people. A 55-year old tune, wearing well, used on primetime Beeb and making its way into my head - not much, I know, but I have to take such little positives when I stumble across them.

Friday 22 July 2022

Blue Friday: No Name No. 5

It's not Elliott Smith's first apperance on Blue Friday - indeed, he started the theme, nearly four years ago. Now here he is again. It's amazing, I think, how such a light, delicate song - mostly just voice and acoustic guitars and then, late on, some sparse persussion - can feel so heavy, like having a stack of hardbacks, or maybe paving slabs, laid on your chest.

Wednesday 20 July 2022

New to NA: The Waeve

Following on from yesterday's Graham Coxon post, here's the first fruit of his new endeavour: The Waeve sees Graham team up with Rosie Elinor Dougall, in much the same way that other guitar hero Bernard Butler recently teamed up with Jessie Buckley. But that's where the similarity ends, if Something Pretty is anything to go by. It's lyrically and rhythmically interesting, and also quite catchy, I reckon...

Tuesday 19 July 2022


Verse, Chorus, Monster! by Graham Coxon

No, this isn't going to be another post about REM. Instead, it's a heads-up - an early warning, if you like. For Blur guitarist and all-round very interesting bloke Graham Coxon has written his autobiography. Verse, Chorus, Monster! goes on sale on the 6th of October.

You can already get our pre-orders in over at Jeff Bezos's place, or there are all kinds of special editions, signed, in slip cases, with extras, that kind of thing: you can take your pick (or choose your budget) at

I sometimes think it takes a guitarist to really appreciate a guitarist, although I'm self-aware enough to recognise that view may be coloured by the fact that I play guitar. Whatever. It's long but I love this video of Graham discussing the recording of my favourite Blur album, Modern Life Is Rubbish. In part, it's the insights into the recording but best of all are the bits when he plays along with tracks I know so well, both hands in shot. It's illuminating. He's a very, very under-rated guitarist.

And because he's not just the guitarist from Blur, here's a track from my favourite Coxon solo album, Love Travels At Illegal Speeds: Standing On My Own Again, recorded here in the last days of that mainstream music show we used to have...

Monday 18 July 2022


I was going to dip into sitcom catchphrase territory and open this post about the weather with "Don't panic!" But I can't, because panic we must. I might borrow from another Dad's Army character and go with, "We're doomed. Doomed!" instead. If wildfires raging across Europe aren't close enough to home for you, and thousands of deaths being attributed to heat in Spain and Portugal, we're about to see domestic temperature records not just broken but obliterated. It isn't enough to just call it a heatwave and blither on about how hot 1976 was. Everything has to change. Everything. Or we are all doomed.

Sorry. I don't mean to bring you down. It's just how I see it, but I don't want to preach, not now. So ... whenever I see "heatwave" in a headline, this is the song I hear. Not the Martha Reeves and the Vandellas original, not The Who's cover, but this, by The Jam. A bit of YouTubing dug up this curio from the band's tour of the US, promoting Setting Sons: an appearance on American Bandstand, miming first to Heatwave and then Strange Town, either side of a fairly uncomfortable interview with host Dick Clark in which Paul seems disinterested, bordering on contemptuous of the questions, and introduces Rick as Jim. And since American Bandstand was something of an institution in the US, running for 37 years, I suppose you could say this is great time-capsule TV... albeit an American time-capsule.

Until next time, let's all be like little Fonzies. "And what's Fonzie like? Come on Yolanda, what's Fonzie like?"

Monday 11 July 2022

Norman. Monty Norman

Monty Norman has died, aged 94. And in case you're thinking, "Who?" or "That name rings a bell but I can't quite put my finger on where from," let me just say that, in a long and distinguished, if unheralded, songwriting career Monty gave us one of the most instantly recognisable pieces of music in the world.


Sure, John Barry gets kudos for his arrangement, and his orchestra's original rendition, but Monty wrote this...

Cheeky bonus - David Arnold's retooling of the theme, for Casino Royale.


Thursday 7 July 2022

Another political message...

...because one a day just isn't enough at the moment, is it?

I've been happily whistling Goodbye by Pete & Dud all day, so I made a thing. It's very much a rush job, but I didn't want to miss the moment. Anyway, what's the opposite of a greatest hits compilation? Worst hits? Greatest misses? Whatever, here it is.

A political message

And two sobering reminders. Saying "I'm going to go" isn't enough. As Dom says...

Secondly, there is such a dearth of decency and talent in the Tory party, whoever follows the entitled one is likely to be almost as bad.

Even so, I think I'll have a beer tonight.

Wednesday 6 July 2022

Pro Bono

I bit the bullet and listened to Bono's Desert Island Discs. Yes, Bono. I know he divides opinion like few others - U2 fans deify him, many other music aficionados (and much of the blogosphere) find him a sanctimonious berk. Me, I'm fairly neutral about him; when U2 started he just wasn't very good, then they had a period of making three or four really fine albums, after which, for me at least, he and they have been treading water. But I can see why Bono isn't to everyone's taste.

So I'm not going to change anyone's mind about listening to his Desert Island Discs, am I? If you're a fan, you'll have listened already, and if you're not then you probably won't, right? But I will just say that Bono seems to have grown some self-awareness - he knows some people find him a sanctimonoious berk, he gets it and is at peace with it. That has to be progress for him, right?

But no, what I wanted to post about is the fact that Bono chose a record by his son's band as one of his discs.

Now my immediate reaction to this was, "Oh no, typical Bono, what a berk, plugging his son on national radio" and so on. But on reflection, I think that if I was alone on a desert island and New Amusements Minor was the singer in a band, I'd want one of his records too, just so that I could hear his voice. That's understandable, isn't it? And really, so is plugging your son on national radio - I'd probably do that too, in the unlikely event that I ever had the chance.

My other thought was, "Christ, Hewson Minor sounds like his dad." Listen for yourself - this is Inhaler, and the track Bono chose, Ice Cream Sundae.

And a final DID observation - Lauren Laverne is a brilliant host. I could listen to her all day.

Monday 4 July 2022

Great moments in music video history #4: Free Yourself

It's not their finest moment musically, but this promo video for the Chemical Brothers' 2018 release Free Yourself is quite astonishing really, and the fact that it might not astonish you or other viewers is really just a sign of how blasé the world has become about CGI and computer animation. I've no idea what this film cost to make - and really that's what it is, a short film rather than a music video - but the fact that it's in budget at all is, when you think about it, astounding.

So, here's Free Yourself - think I, Robot but with a big beat instead of Will Smith. And don't forget to sit through the credits, for a little coda.

Sunday 3 July 2022

Sunday shorts: A Perfect Reminder

Craig over at the always-excellent Plain or Pan has written a book about The Trash Can Sinatras' album I've Seen Everything, and that's all it took to remind me of this little ditty. You might say it was, ahem, the perfect reminder.

Friday 1 July 2022

Kitchen karaoke

Found myself singing this in the kitchen last night, whilst cooking tea. I might have got a little carried away, as Mrs New Amusements got up from where she was working in the dining room and closed the kitchen door. But honestly, it's lost none of its power, even with me belting it out. So here are three versions of Sleep Well Tonight - the first is the official promo video, salvaged from VHS by Gene super-fan Lewis Slade. The second is a live TV performance from Mark Radcliffe's much-missed Channel 4 show The White Room, from either '95 or '96. And finally, there's fan footage of Martin Rossiter, at the warm-up gig for his farewell show last year. All brilliant. But then you knew I'd say that, right?