Wednesday, 29 March 2023

It was thirty years ago today

'Suede' by SuedeSuede's eponymous debut album was released on this day, thirty years ago. Cue mild angst about the passing of time and generally feeling old.

Looking back, I was desperate for it to be released. I had loved the singles that had preceded it but, more than that, I think I was still looking for a group to fill the Smiths-shaped hole in my life. Would Suede be it, I wondered?

Truth be told, I was a little disappointed with the album at first because, much like the debut from that Mancunian quartet that I still so sorely missed, it fell slightly short in a few areas. Firstly, there weren't enough new songs - The Drowners, Metal Mickey and Animal Nitrate had all been released as singles already, which meant only eight new tracks on the album. And then there were the lyrics: I wanted Brett to be the new Morrissey, and he was clearly trying hard. Maybe too hard. But for whatever reason, I felt it wasn't quite enough. Bernard's guitar brilliance won me over though, and it became an album I played an awful lot through '93 and '94. It also became a go-to source for the mix-tapes that I made to send across the pond to my much-missed friend in Philadephia.

I was lucky enough to see Suede live earlier this month. Five songs from the eleven on Suede made it into the nineteen-song setlist, which tells its own story: firstly how much they are adored by the band's fanbase, but also how well they have stood the test of time. Here's one that they played, and I can confirm that it still cooks:

And here's something for the guitarists among us: a fascinating insight from Bernard on how to play it:

I love this, almost as much as I love the fact that he still has all the same kit he recorded it on.

What else? How about a song from the debut album that didn't get played at this month's gig? This was one of my favourites back in '93, mostly for its fizzing intro - Simon's barrelling drum-rolls and Bernard's Gibson flanged-pedalled to within an inch of its life. God, it was an exciting way to start a record in 1993. Still is, in my book.

To end, a quiet, special moment from that gig earlier this month: Brett and Neil gave us The Next Life, the debut album's most delicate moment. It was quite something, only slightly marred (where I was stood) by people having a good old chin-wag all around me. Grrrr! What is it with that? Surely you've come to a gig to hear the music? If you just want to have a chat, some of you even with your back to the stage, piss off to the pub! Christ! Sorry, it gets my goat, as you can tell. Let's restore order and get back to that lovely fragile live rendition.

Happy 30th, Suede. As it turned out, the Smiths-shaped hole only ever came close to being filled when Gene came along, but you still have a special place in my heart. More "on this day in music history" nonsense on Friday.

Monday, 27 March 2023

About (love)cats

If you search YouTube for covers of Lovecats, well, you'll find a shedload. There are some good ones, some bad ones, some interesting ones. Indie pop, rock, ukulele, string quartet, a capella ... anything and everything you could hope for. But none are as good as the original, not even this one, and you know why? It's the voice and the delivery. Any other vocal interpretation of this song just leaves you thinking, "That's not as good as Robert Smith."

So here's Robert and his merry band, just because.

And also just because, here's a love(ly) cat, last week.

Wednesday, 22 March 2023

Nothing like the sun (or more about AI)

Estelle Skornik Thomas Thorne William Shakespeare Bill Gates
What do these four have in common? Nothing, other than all appearing in this post.

As you'll know from my last post, I've been playing with ChatGPT, the better-than-you-might-expect AI chatbot that Microsoft are getting behind (I'm on the waiting list to try Google's Bard AI).

Since yesterday was World Poetry Day, I asked ChatGPT if it could write a sonnet about French actress Estelle Skornik. And if you're thinking that names rings a vague bell, she was briefly famous in the 90s for playing Nicole in those Renault Clio ads. Anyway, here's what the bot wrote, literally in a couple of seconds:

Fair Estelle, with eyes so bright and bold,
A beauty that inspires both awe and grace,
Your presence on the screen is a sight to behold,
A talent that few can ever hope to trace.

With every line you speak, your voice doth flow,
Like honey, sweet and rich and full of life,
Your passion for your craft doth clearly show,
And stirs within us all a yearning strife.

Your beauty, like a rose in full bloom,
Shimmers with a radiance that cannot be ignored,
And captivates us all in its sweet perfume,
A sight that we shall always adore.

So here's to you, Estelle, with love and admiration,
May your star forever shine with such brilliance and dedication.

So what do we think? I mean, yes, technically it is a sonnet - fourteen lines, rhyming, expressing romantic love or infatuation - and it is about Estelle (an Estelle at least, rather than necessarily Mlle Skornik) ... but it's awful, isn't it? I mean, I'm no expert but this feels like the kind of "moon, June and coffee spoons" rhyming that you'd find in a greetings card, or at best something Thomas from Ghosts would write. But is it any better or worse than arguably the most famous sonnet in the English language?

My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips' red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.

I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.

I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground.

And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

Yeah, that's better, isn't it? That Shakespeare bloke was alright, wasn't he?

The thing is, though, this AI lark: it's in the kindergarten right now. Think how quickly we went from the Wright brothers to Apollo XI. Think how quickly we went from a Nokia 3310 to the iPhone. Now think how quickly AI will go from Hallmark poetry to Shakespeare...

From one Bill to another. Bill Gates is in the news today, suggesting that AI is the most important tech advance in decades. For what my opinion is worth (nought), I think he's right. And whilst Gates cautions that governments should work with his industry to "limit the risks" of AI, he is broadly optimistic about the benefits of this new tech. I worry more though. For every positive application (research, medicine) I see more negatives: you think algorithms are bad now, just wait 'til some commercial AI thinks it knows you better than you know yourself. And worse than the monetisation will be the militarisation. Gah.

Let's end with a song. The aforementioned Sonnet 130 gave this post its title, but also gave Sting a line for a song and the title for an album in 1987. Now Sting irks a lot of people, almost as much as Bono, but he's done some good stuff, and I'm not just talking about his time in the Rozzers. Anyway, to prove that I don't have a hip bone in my body, other than my pelvis, here's an excellent version of that song, Sister Moon, by Gordon Sumner and his jazzy mates. Until such time as AI can play the drums with the intense joy and precision of Billy Kilson in this, maybe we can rest easy.

Sunday, 19 March 2023

About AI

So, I've finally got to the top of the waiting list to have a go with ChatGPT, the AI chatbot from OpenAI. From my admittedly limited experimentation thus far, I'd say it's scarily good at some things, not so good at others. Examples, you say? Well, I started off with a vaguely work-related question:

Q. Will AI replace data managers?

A. It's unlikely that AI will completely replace data managers in the near future. While AI can automate many tasks related to data management, such as data cleaning, preprocessing, and analysis, human oversight is still necessary for many aspects of the data management process.

For example, data managers play a critical role in defining the data needs of an organization, selecting appropriate data sources, and ensuring the accuracy and quality of the data. They also need to interpret the results of data analyses, communicate findings to stakeholders, and make recommendations for action based on the data.

Furthermore, data management involves many non-technical skills such as communication, problem-solving, and project management, which are difficult for AI to replicate. While AI can assist with some aspects of data management, it is unlikely to replace the need for skilled human professionals in the field.

That's not too bad, is it? On the money, I'd say, if a bit bland. So what about something more taxing? Maybe a question about the future wife, also requiring some creativity, perhaps...?

Q. Can you write a limerick about Kylie Minogue?

A. There once was a pop star named Kylie,
Whose music was loved far and wily,
From "Can't Get You Out of My Head"
To "Spinning Around" instead,
Her fans danced with joy so spryly.

Which I think we can all agree is terrible. However, could any of us do any better, with that brief, and in less than twenty seconds? Not sure I could (and that's being generous to myself). Next up, a question that requires opinion and morality to answer, and has vexed many of us for some time.

Q. Is Morrissey racist?

A. There has been controversy surrounding Morrissey and accusations of racism. Some of his comments and behavior have been criticized by individuals and groups as being insensitive or offensive towards certain racial and ethnic groups.

For example, Morrissey has been known to make comments in interviews that some have interpreted as being anti-immigrant or anti-Muslim. He has also been criticized for wearing a badge with the logo of the far-right political party For Britain during a performance on a US talk show.

However, Morrissey has also denied accusations of racism and has spoken out in support of animal rights, veganism, and the LGBTQ+ community. He has also collaborated with artists from diverse backgrounds and included diverse musical influences in his work.

Overall, the issue of Morrissey and racism is complex and controversial, with differing opinions and interpretations. It is up to individuals to form their own opinions based on the available evidence and their personal values.

Which is more a collection of statements than an answer, and which is as admirably on the fence as even the most die-hard SPM fan.

So, let's do one more, just the one as I know this is getting boring for you. There's a skit in The Simpsons (series 8, episode 6) where Milhouse's parents' marriage is breaking down; playing Pictionary at a dinner party, Milhouse's dad Kirk has to draw a representation of "dignity" and his wife Luann can't guess what it is. Because how do you draw dignity in a doodle? Except when challenged by Kirk, Luann does exactly that, the joke being that we don't get to see the mystery picture. Why have I described the scene, when you could just watch it on YouTube right here? But anyway, that leads me to my final question for ChatGPT, and the one that caused it to think long and hard...

Q. How could you represent dignity in a picture?

A. Dignity can be represented in various ways in a picture, depending on the context and the intended message. Here are some possible ideas:

A portrait of a person who exudes confidence and self-respect. This could be a close-up shot of their face, capturing their expression and body language that conveys a sense of dignity.

A scene of a person standing tall and strong in the face of adversity. This could be a silhouette against a dramatic background, such as a stormy sky or a cityscape.

A group of people holding hands or linking arms, symbolizing solidarity and unity. This could be a diverse group of people from different backgrounds, genders, ages, and cultures, showing that dignity transcends individual differences.

A photo of a majestic animal, such as a lion or an eagle, that represents strength, courage, and nobility. This could be a close-up of the animal's face or a wide shot of it in its natural habitat.

A picture of a grand monument or a majestic landscape that inspires awe and reverence. This could be a panoramic shot of a mountain range, a waterfall, or a cathedral.

A simple, minimalist image that conveys a message of dignity through symbolism. This could be a single flower standing tall amidst a barren landscape, a candle burning brightly in the darkness, or a hand reaching out to help someone in need.

Ultimately, the best way to represent dignity in a picture is to capture the essence of what it means to you and convey that message through visual storytelling.

Which is actually not a bad answer, if a bit clichéd. A noble lion, an eagle, a mountain... It's almost like motivational posters have been designed by AI for years.

Okay, I know I said that was the last question but I'm human, not an AI, so I'm prone to error and changing my mind, so indulge me one last time. This is how I ended my session on ChatGPT.

Q. Is ChatGPT any good?

A. As an AI language model, I am programmed to provide helpful and informative responses to the best of my ability based on the training data that I have been given. However, like any technology, there are limitations to what I can do and areas where I may not be as knowledgeable or accurate. That being said, I strive to provide the best possible answers to your questions and constantly work to improve my capabilities. Ultimately, it is up to you to decide whether or not my responses are helpful and meet your needs.

Which basically translates as "I'm good but I'm modest with it." And that has to be a good thing - the more modest the machines are, the less chance we will all end up in a dystopian wasteland, ruled by mechanical overlords from the Cyberdyne factory. On that note, let's end with a video that is supposed to highlight some of Boston Dynamics' robot fails... except it really just shows us how good they are getting. I'm not sure how I feel about all this, but I'd be interested to know what you all think.

Friday, 17 March 2023

Where spring is sprung

I know it's only mid-March, but I think I've already heard my song of the year. Remind me of that in December if I do a recap.

Others have beaten me to writing about the Fontaines DC cover of Nick Drake's Cello Song: Swiss Adam at the inestimably brilliant Bagging Area and Craig at the always-excellent Plain Or Pan, to name but two. So I'm not going to say much more about it, because you should follow those links and read better, more original write-ups. All I will add is that the guitar during the (long) intro puts me vaguely in mind of Robby Krieger at The Doors' wooziest, the Fontaines dropped the last verse from Nick's original, and that I love it when singers retain their regional accents in song. No generic mid-Atlantic drawl for Grian Chatten, oh no.

Anyway. This is the best new song I have heard in an age, by any objective measure. It manages to feel both dark and uplifting at the same time, and reminds us all of the simple power of music. It's also everything a good cover version should be - identifiable but distinct, a reimagining not a retread. It also came out of my radio earlier in the week, and I can confirm it sounds fantastic cranked up: rich, atmospheric, textured ...

All in all, I bloody love it.

Tuesday, 14 March 2023

Every home should have one IX

No Ides of March nonsense here, just the remediation of a massive and long-standing oversight on my part with regard to the albums that no home should be without. Yes, it's another compilation album, but it's one of the greatest multi-act compilation albums ever released, by anyone, at any time. Buying this on cassette, way back when, was such a significant moment in retrospect, introducing me to a slew of new bands by the weight of association with bands I already loved. And tracks that, in the pre-Internet age of my youth, I might never have heard otherwise. How can I have overlooked This Are Two Tone for quite so long? EHSHO masterlist duly updated.

And because it still sounds fantastic, here's The Selecter with their eponymous B-side:

Sunday, 12 March 2023

Thank you for the days III: Sunday

Let's flog this blog series dead horse, with a third and final batch of posts featuring songs that have a day of the week in the title. Finally, Sunday - it ends here.

What better way to wake up on a Sunday morning than with late-70s Debbie Harry? So of course this is Sunday Girl by Blondie. I've gone for a live video, even though the sound quality is poor, simply because DH is mesmerising in it.

Not much is going to measure up to that, is it. Certainly not Joe Jackson. But here he is anyway, with a jerky guitar line that is vaguely reminiscent of XTC, and some questionable of-their-time lyrics, with Sunday Papers. Redeemed by the harmonica middle eight. Maybe.

To finish, not just this third batch of songs but also the series, one of the greatest pop songs ever written. Take a bow Gerry Goffin and Carole King, for the genius of Pleasant Valley Sunday. But I had The Monkees yesterday, so their original, brilliant though it is, is out. Instead then, here's The Wedding Present's cover, from 1992 when it was the b-side of the fifth single in their Hit Parade series.

There will be no part IV. Part IVs are for Star Wars episodes and Rocky. Don't even try to persuade me.

Saturday, 11 March 2023

Thank you for the days III: Saturday

Let's flog this blog series dead horse, with a third and final batch of posts featuring songs that have a day of the week in the title. Relax, it's Saturday, this nonsense is nearly over.

I do love a bit of Monkees, so here's Saturday's Child. It was written by David Gates, before he found his own fame in Bread (the band, not the sitcom), and it sounds like Micky is on lead vocals. There's probably a website somewhere that tells you which Wrecking Crew members were playing which instruments on this, but I don't care about that frankly, because, middle-eight aside, this is terrific.

Remember when The Enemy were the next big thing? They had those clever "Sleeping with The Enemy" t-shirts on their merch stall, as I recall. Anyway, this is Saturday which, sadly, is not very good. Maybe even their nadir. But relax, it won't take much effort to forget it completely by the end of this post.

Given his grunge roots and time with Queens of the Stone Age, the late Mark Lanegan's collaboration with former Belle & Sebastian vocalist Isobel Campbell probably surprised a fair few people. However, their 2006 collaboration album Ballad of the Broken Seas garnered a Mercury Music Prize nomination and included, amongst other things, the beauty that is Saturday's Gone.

Tomorrow, Sunday. And rest...

Friday, 10 March 2023

Thank you for the days III: Friday

Let's flog this blog series dead horse, with a third and final batch of posts featuring songs that have a day of the week in the title. It's Friday, let's end the working week!

To begin, a song from a few years before I was born. And for Van Morrison, before Moondance and Astral Weeks made him a global star. Friday's Child is not the typical proto-R&B that made Belfast five-piece Them's name, but has an altogether gentler, more soulful sound.

Let's get a bit more contemporary, shall we. This is Friday Love, by The Fur, and is completely new to me. It was released last year, I think, but sounds a bit like it was airlifted in from 1996. Maybe that's why I like it; my youth is now a retro trend.

Speaking of retro trends, let's finish with Paul Weller (ba-doom-tish, thank you very much, here all week, etc). This is Friday Street from 1997's (slightly disappointing, for me) Heavy Soul. The only surprise here is that it took me until part III of this series to feature this. Still, here's a nice fan-made video for it.

Saturday tomorrow. Contain your excxitement.

Thursday, 9 March 2023

Thank you for the days III: Thursday

Let's flog this blog series dead horse, with a third and final batch of posts featuring songs that have a day of the week in the title. It's Thursday's turn today...

This post is brought to you by the letter 'R'. Specifically, 'R' for Rol, as he made a slew of Thursday song suggestions last time around, and these all come from his list. First up, to wake you up, Sheffield's Little Man Tate with Pay Day's Thursday, their 2008 celebration of getting paid. Or of Jennifer who had, it seems, so much more to offer.

Next up, a song called simply Thursday, by a band called Morphine about whom I know very little. Still, the blurb for this on YouTube is helpful: "Hailing from Cambridge MA, the self proclaimed 'low rock' group Morphine were a dynamic part of the 90's alt-rock movement. The trio's distinctive combination of saxophone, double bass and drums merged with the vocal stylings of lead singer Mark Sandman to create a truly original sound." Doesn't sound 30 years old, does it?

And if 30 years isn't old enough for you, the next track is 40. This is Thursday's Child by The Chameleons. I've listened to it a few times in preparation for this post, and can't decide whether I like it or not. I think maybe I only like parts of it, like the dudda-dudda-dudda guitar motif underlying the verses. But then maybe I'm a heathen and you'll all tell me what I'm overlooking. Whatever, I prefer Swamp Thing.

Tomorrow, Friday. There's the home stretch, hoving into view.

Wednesday, 8 March 2023

Thank you for the days III: Wednesday

Let's flog this blog series dead horse, with a third and final batch of posts featuring songs that have a day of the week in the title. No prizes for noticing today is Wednesday.

Turns out that after Tuesdays and Thursdays, Wednesday is the next hardest day to find songs for, so here are some barrel scrapings deep cuts. Let's start with Highasakite, a sort of Norwegian First Aid Kit, and their song Since Last Wednesday, from the 2013 album Silent Treatment.

Next up, a song called simply Wednesday, by a band called Concorde. I know nothing about them, they don't even have a Wikipedia page, but I did find this on Bandcamp which suggests Concorde were Javier Garavito and Shane Small from Seattle. Their sole album Mess I'm Made Of included this track, and was released in 2006. To me it starts off sounding like it's going to be an all-out assault on mainstream FM, but takes a slightly darker, downbeat turn. Ish.

To end today let's have a slab of Wannadies, all the way back from 1994. Dreamy Wednesdays came from their third album, Be A Girl, and has a lovely mid-90s scuzziness to the guitars, plus some swooping strings ... because they're dreamy, right? Oh, and it possibly goes on 45 seconds or so too long, I reckon. What do you think?

Tomorrow, Thursday. Be there or be ... elsewhere.

Tuesday, 7 March 2023

Thank you for the days III: Tuesday

Let's flog this blog series dead horse, with a third and final batch of posts featuring songs that have a day of the week in the title. Part II of part III must mean it's Tuesday.

Let's start with a suggestion from last time out (thanks JM) and bit of Nick Heyward, with Another Stupid Tuesday. I've gone with a demo version here, as the rough guitar sound puts me vaguely in mind of early REM. See what I mean?

Next up, here's Men Without Hats, proving (or disproving, some might say) that there was more to them than just The Safety Dance. This is On Tuesday, notable for its Anchorman-style jazz flute. What can I say, it was 1987...

I'll close with someone that both Rol and I have been championing for a while. Last time out Rol suggested Pretty Sure It's Tuesday by Gavin Osborn and why not, because it's dystopian brilliance.

Wednesday tomorrow. Who'd've thought?

Monday, 6 March 2023

Thank you for the days III: Monday

Let's flog this blog series dead horse, with a third and final batch of posts featuring songs that have a day of the week in the title. Best start with Monday.

First off, a track that is an unbelievable 39 years old, from everyone's favourite Brummie New Romantic pioneers; specifically, New Moon On Monday by Duran Duran. There was a lot of money spare for videos back then, eh?

For the second track, let's stay in the mid-80s (some would say I never left). Here's a live performance of Maybe Monday by 'Til Tuesday, famous of course for being Aimee Mann's first successful band.

Let's finish today with a bit of a cheat. I say that because I featured half of this mash-up first time around. But who needs an excuse for showing this video, I say, so here's the future wife with Can't Get Blue Monday Out Of My Head.

More nonsense tomorrow.

Tuesday, 28 February 2023

Ten years ago

It's ten years (okay, and twelve days, calendar pedants) since Martin Rossiter released an EP of covers entitled The Defenestration of Prince (and others). It built on the release of his similarly titled debut solo album, and included this quite lovely Prince cover.

Here's the Prince original, for those that like to compare and contrast.

There were no more albums to come, sadly, and Martin retired with a farewell gig at the Forum Kentish Town in November '21. It was one of the best, if not the best gig I have ever been to. Still gutted that it was the end.

Wednesday, 22 February 2023

Whoop-de-doo, tarantula town

Whoop-de-doo indeed, for this blog is 18 today: legally old enough to vote. In fact, if it was a person and not a collection of nonsense this blog could also legally...

  • ...stand for election as an MP, local councillor or mayor
  • ...serve on a jury
  • tried in a magistrate's court, and go to prison if found guilty of a criminal offence
  • ...make a will
  • ...pawn stuff in a pawn shop
  • ...get married without parental (my?) permission
  • ...if adopted, see the original birth certificate (and have their name added to the birth contact register)
  • ...consent to their body being used in a medical study
  • ...carry an organ donor card (an excellent idea)
  • cigarettes, rolling tobacco and cigarette papers
  • alcoholic drinks in a pub or a bar
  • fireworks
  • ...view, rent or buy an 18-rated film
  • ...view, rent or buy pornographic material that does not contravene UK obscenity laws
  • a bet in a betting shop or casino
  • ...get a tattoo
  • ...get body piercings
  • ...ride a motorbike above 125cc with a licence
  • lorries between 3,500kg and 7,500kg (with the appropriate licence)
  • ...and drive a bus, under some specific circumstances – such as if learning to take the Passenger Carrying Vehicle (PCV) test

But it still couldn't adopt a child (21 for that) or supervise a learner driver (25).

Anyway, I had a look at the singles chart for 22nd February 2005, and it was mostly rubbish. I'll save you a click - Jennifer Lopez was number one, with Get Right, a song that is instantly forgettable and yet has also somehow racked up 163 million views on YouTube, but I'm not going to feature that . Surprisingly, Elvis Presley had seven entries in the Top 100 that week - I'm casting my mind back, and can only imagine that this was in response to what would have been his 70th birthday in early January. Okay, happy birthday and all that, but I'm not going to feature The King either.

Digging further down the chart, I note that it featured the only week in the Top 100 for The House of Love's comeback single. Casting my mind back (again) I can't remember them even having a comeback, probably unsurprising as it was straight in at #73 and straight out again the week after. And that's a shame, because this is alright, I think. Here's Love You Too Much.

Monday, 20 February 2023

Rise and shine

I made Rise and Shine by The Cardigans a Clandestine Classic way back in October 2012, and included the video for the original release. I mentioned in passing that when the song was re-recorded and re-released, the band also made a new promo video too. Well, here it is.

You won't remember it, but we used to dance around the room to this.

Sunday, 12 February 2023

Thank you for the days II: Sunday

This was popular last time out, so let's go round again with another seven posts featuring three songs that have a day of the week in the title. Inevitably, we end with Sunday...

I need to start with an apology to Rol because I can't avoid it again, sorry. This is Sunday Bloody Sunday by U2, but it's the version I know and (whisper it quietly) love. I had live album Under a Blood Red Sky on cassette long before I owned War, and this is how I always hear this song in my head. Skip ahead, Rol.

Okay, let's press on and get this load of old tut over and done with. This is Sunday Morning by Madness from The Rise And Fall, arguably the last album before things started a slow unravelling for them. Who'd have thought back then that they'd be natural treasures forty years later?

And so to the end. This is in response to a request from The Man Of Cheese, and I'm very happy to oblige because (a) it's superb and (b) it's a standout track on what is probably Bloc Party's best album, A Weekend in the City. Feels like a good track to close the series with too, doesn't it? Here's Sunday by Kele and co.

Never doing this again. Don't even ask.


Or maybe I will, some time...


Saturday, 11 February 2023

Thank you for the days II: Saturday

This was popular last time out, so let's go round again with another seven posts featuring three songs that have a day of the week in the title. On the home stretch now, not long left...

Turns out Saturday is the easiest day to find good songs for (closely followed by its partner in weekendery, Sunday). I guess I should start with the obvious song that I controversially overlooked last time. This is John with his belt on (Belt-on John, geddit?) with Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting).

There, that's got that out of the way. Time to revert to type, then, with the brilliantly observational, slice-of-life lyrics of Saturday's Kids. And my god, those lyrics are ingrained in me. "These are the real creatures that time has forgot..."

Talking of reverting to type, here's some early Billy Bragg (I told you he'd pop up again this week). From second album Brewing Up with Billy Bragg, this is one of my brother's favourites, The Saturday Boy. Note the lovely trumpet cameo from Dave Woodhead, and the best use of "unrequited" in any song, ever.

It'll all be over after tomorrow, promise.

Friday, 10 February 2023

Thank you for the days II: Friday

This was popular last time out, so let's go round again with another seven posts featuring three songs that have a day of the week in the title. Obviously, it's Friday, so...

Going to start today with a slice of Nancy Sinatra because, well why ever not? The sound quality on this clip isn't the greatest but I chose it for the video, Nancy miming at the pit-head, or so it seems. Brilliant stuff from 1967, this is Friday's Child.

Continuing the theme of YouTube videos with poor sound quality, and starting a theme of songs that reference both Friday and Saturday, here's the oldest recording I've ever featured on the blog: from 1916, here's Al Jolson singing that old music-hall favourite Where Did Robinson Crusoe Go with Friday on Saturday Night? And actually, given it's 107 years old the sound quality is actually pretty good.

And so to another song that has both Friday and Saturday in its title. Thanks to Khayem for this suggestion: it's Friday Night, Saturday Morning by The Specials. I've gone for a live recording, just so we can see the late Terry Hall in action.

The weekend is nearly upon us ...

Thursday, 9 February 2023

Thank you for the days II: Thursday

This was popular last time out, so let's go round again with another seven posts featuring three songs that have a day of the week in the title. Inevitably, it's Thursday.

In case you were wondering, there won't be a part III of this series, simply because certain days just don't have enough good songs about them. I would have been snookered for today if not for the suggestions The Swede made last time around. So let's kick off with one of those: Donovan from 1965 (unmistakably), with Jersey Thursday.

Let's bring things a little more up-to-date (though still seventeen years old) with another suggestion, this time from Khayem. This is Thursday by Asobi Seksu, an American shoegaze outfit that I know nothing about. I love this though. It's quite hard to make out singer Yuki Chikudate's vocals, and maybe that's part of the attraction. See what you think.

And here's one I found myself: Jim Croce was a folkie singer-songwriter most famous for Bad, Bad Leroy Brown. He had lots of US chart success, very little over here. This track, entitled simply Thursday, is from his last album I Got A Name, which was released three months after Jim had died in a plane crash.

Isn't it Friday yet?

Wednesday, 8 February 2023

Thank you for the days II: Wednesday

This was popular last time out, so let's go round again with another seven posts featuring three songs that have a day of the week in the title. Part III of part II can only be Wednesday.

The only place to start today is with another song that I can't believe I overlooked first time around. This is early Simon and Garfunkel, i.e. before the electrified remix of The Sound of Silence catapulted them up the charts. Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. is near perfect, I think: Paul's guitar finger-picking, two voices made to fit together, and a delicate, gentle lyric of love.

Where next? Remember Lisa Loeb? She had a hit with Stay (I Missed You) in the great record company scramble to unearth more Alanis Morrissettes. Anyway, she recorded Waiting For Wednesday for her third album, Tails, in 1995. That had the full band treatment, but I prefer this acoustic version recorded live for Canadian television.

So that just leaves us to address the issue of Wednesday's child being full of woe. This song has music by John Barry and is sung by the inimitable Matt Munro (Terry Parsons to his mum) and was used in a film called The Quiller Memorandum, that I can't say I've ever seen. Anyway, here's Matt sounding suitably woeful with Wednesday's Child.

That's hump-day done then ...

Tuesday, 7 February 2023

Thank you for the days II: Tuesday

This was popular last time out, so let's go round again with another seven posts featuring three songs that have a day of the week in the title. Day two, of course, is Tuesday.

I ummed and aahed about running this series again because some days, most notably today, proved quite hard to find another three decent songs for. Anyway, let's see what you make of today's barrel-scrapings ... although that's a bit harsh on this slice of MacGowan-less Pogues from 1993. Spider Stacy handles vocal duties on Tuesday Morning.

Well, that's alright but it's not going to win any prizes. Neither's this, from Cat Stevens' 1971 album Teaser and the Firecat, an LP famous for Moonshadow and Morning Has Broken. This track, Tuesday's Dead, is less well known, of course, and that's a shame; it doesn't feel 52 years old, does it? Wish I could say the same, frankly.

So how do you follow the folky noodlings of the artist now known as Yusuf Islam? Why, with a recommendation and some mid-80s indie jangle, of course. Khayem suggested this in the comments, and who I am to argue? This is Meet Me On Tuesday, by The Brilliant Corners. It's a bounce-around-the-room corker.

No prizes for guessing what happens tomorrow ...

Monday, 6 February 2023

Thank you for the days II: Monday

This was popular last time out, so let's go round again with another seven posts featuring three songs that have a day of the week in the title. Let's get started with Monday.

First off, a track that I bemoaned not having the space to include first time around, not least becuase it robbed me of the opportunity to write Oh Susanna (obligatory sigh), as is the convention for all male bloggers of a certain age. So here's Manic Monday by The Bangles.

So, from a song I couldn't fit in first time around to another that I have properly loved for more than 40 years and yet, somehow, completely forgot last time! How on earth did I not think of Monday by The Jam? A song that I will forever associate with completely unrequited feelings for a girl on the school bus...

Let's close with Sir William of Bragg and his paean to the grindstone, St Monday, from the 2002 album England, Half English. Bill may appear again later in the week...

You know what happens tomorrow, right?

Saturday, 4 February 2023

Thank you for the days: the weekend

A bonus post to complement last week's mini-series about days of the week - it's the weekend! What better excuse do I need to feature a band I'm not sure I've ever written much about much before...

So don't hang around and be foolish
Do something constructive with your weekend

No, it's not their finest work, but it's hard to argue with the sentiment. What are you still doing hanging around here? Being foolish?!?

Sunday, 29 January 2023

Thank you for the days: Sunday

A new, seven-part series as a thiny veiled excuse to have something to write about: three songs that have a day of the week in the title. Not (just) in the lyrics but in the title. Today, part seven and our day of rest, as the series ends with Sunday, and perhaps the best trio of all.

Let's kick off with Blur and Sunday, Sunday, the third single from career-redefining (and career-saving) second album Modern Life Is Rubbish. Important to remember that all three singles from that album peaked in the chart mid-20s; a lot of the record-buying public still hadn't completely forgiven them for Leisure, and the omnipotence of Parklife was still a little way off. I'd forgotten how good this is when it kicks off at the 1:22 mark. Always fantastic live too.

It maybe isn't a massive leap from Blur back to The Small Faces, and Lazy Sunday. This hit #2 on release in 1968 (kept off the top by Louis Armstrong, of all people), and charted again in 1976 (I can't work out why that would be, just yet). And when was the last time you heard lumbago mentioned in a song? Anyway, all together now, "Wouldn't it be nice to get on with my neighbours..."

And so, finally, the twenty-first and final song to be featured in this little series. Sorry if you've had enough of SPM by now, or can't/won't separate artist from music. But this remains excellent, a career highpoint, and I'm not just talking about his solo career. Such a good video too, with the singer making blink-and-you'll-miss-em cameos in his own promo, whilst Lucette Henderson, Billie Whitelaw and Cheryl Murray (from Corrie, so I'm told) take the lead roles, along with Southend-on-Sea as the coastal town they forgot to bomb. Here's Everyday Is Like Sunday for those that still do. With bonus Charles Hawtrey!

Here endeth the series, probably.

Saturday, 28 January 2023

Thank you for the days: Saturday

A new, seven-part series as a thiny veiled excuse to have something to write about: three songs that have a day of the week in the title. Not (just) in the lyrics but in the title. Today, part six: the weekend is upon us in the form of Saturday.

First up, Whigfield. No, wait, come back! I promise this is the only Eurodance track I will feature all year, okay? For yes, this is disposable, bubblegum nonsense ... but it's catchy, isn't it? That "Dee dee na na na" hook is ... well, hooky, isn't it? Plus Sannie Carlson pranced around the video in a towel which, in '94, was quite exciting (Whigfield was the name of the group, not her). It's of its time, sure ... but Saturday Night is also the first song that came to mind for day six, and that has to be for a reason. Here you go:

Still here? Good; let's get back to safer territory. This is Suede, with Saturday Night, a real peach from their first Bernard-less album Coming Up. It hit #6 in early '97, and yes, that is a young Keeley Hawes in the video.

Onwards then. I'm hesitant to feature the same artist twice in this series, and he already appeared for Thursday but this is such a good clip, almost as much for the time-capsule introduction from Russell Harty as for the performance of Drive-In Saturday by David Bowie (a song that Alyson wrote excellently about at WIAA, just a short while ago). I was going to feature SPM's excellent cover of this ... but I'm saving him for the last post. So here's David:

No prizes for guessing what comes tomorrow.

Friday, 27 January 2023

Thank you for the days: Friday

A new, seven-part series as a thiny veiled excuse to have something to write about: three songs that have a day of the week in the title. Not (just) in the lyrics but in the title. Today, part five, which must mean the weekend is nearly here ... it's Friday.

You can't be my age and not have a soft spot for Shed Seven. This might not be their finest hour, but it's called She Left Me On Friday, so it's getting included here. Save your disappointment for the comments...

And here comes the song I started this mini series to feature: this is Friday On My Mind by 60s combo The Easybeats. I didn't know, until researching this, that they came from Australia, did you? Anyway, I properly love this, especially the verses - it's the very unusual guitar lines that run through it, I think. They sound like they should come from the more experimental, psychedelic end of the 60s, don't they? Anyway... love this.

I also love The Cure, and have done since first hearing A Forest way back when. So you can guess what's coming next, can't you? Possibly their most commercially successful single, certainly one of their most covered. It's the shiny, atypically-happy brilliance of Robert Smith's pension plan, Friday I'm In Love.

Well that's the working week over, time to kick back for the weekend...

Thursday, 26 January 2023

Thank you for the days: Thursday

A new, seven-part series as a thiny veiled excuse to have something to write about: three songs that have a day of the week in the title. Not (just) in the lyrics but in the title. Today, part four, which can only mean ... Thursday.

I probably haven't featured They Might Be Giants on here enough over the years. Let's start making amends for that right now, with I Lost Thursday, from last year's album Book.

Let's go from there straight to another artist that I also haven't featured on NA enough over the years: the Pet Shop Boys. This track, titled simply Thursday, sounds like ... well, it sounds like it could have come from any era of their near-40 year career. And I don't mean that as a negative, but a positive - they've stayed true to their sound, and made the music they wanted to make. Not strictly my cup of tea, but you can't argue with their success. Plus there's something about a spoken-word Chris Lowe refrain.

There's only one song to close with today though, right? Seven years gone and as missed as ever, this is David Bowie with Thursday's Child, from 1999.

You know what this means for tomorrow, right?

Wednesday, 25 January 2023

Thank you for the days: Wednesday

A new, seven-part series as a thiny veiled excuse to have something to write about: three songs that have a day of the week in the title. Not (just) in the lyrics but in the title. Today, part three, and some head-scratching on my part ... it's Wednesday.

Let's kick off with some stripped back twelve-bar R&B from John Lee Hooker, in the form of Wednesday Evening Blues. This song is 62 years old but must have had some kind of studio trickery applied in the remastering, because the vocal sounds like it was recorded last night...

Let's fast-forward from there to 1980, to Wednesday Week by Elvis Costello and The Attractions, from their Armed Forces period. This is fast and frantic at the start, but the second half is more typical of later Elvis and elevates this above many of its peers.

Let's close with my favourite Wednesday song though; also called Wednesday Week, and also from 1980, this is by The Undertones and signalled something of an advance for them musically, a little slower than much of what had come before, a little more complex too. Who knew, listening to this back then, that Feargal would end up the de facto guardian of the nation's rivers? More power to him!

Hmm, can't think what to do tomorrow...

Tuesday, 24 January 2023

Thank you for the days: Tuesday

A new, seven-part series as a thiny veiled excuse to have something to write about: three songs that have a day of the week in the title. Not (just) in the lyrics but in the title. Today, part two, which can only mean ... Tuesday.

To kick off with something unexpected, here's nineties lo-fi indie rockers Neutral Milk Hotel with a fairly typical slice of fuzzy eclecticism, Tuesday Moon.

And let's go from there to the expected, with Ruby Tuesday by The Rolling Stones. This has naturally been the inspiration for many cover versions, from the good (Melanie) to the why-bother variety (step forward, Sir Rod). Anyway, let's enjoy Mick and Keith's melancholia from all the way back in 1967.

And finally, a lesser known Tuesday song that probably owes its title at least to The Stones. This is Groovy Tuesday, by Jersey-based alt-rockers The Smithereens. Listen closely, there's a guitar line in the background that seems to me to owe a debt to The Small Faces...

No prizes for guessing what happens tomorrow...

Monday, 23 January 2023

Thank you for the days: Monday

A new, seven-part series as a thiny veiled excuse to have something to write about: three songs that have a day of the week in the title. Not (just) in the lyrics but in the title. Let's get started with Monday.

First off, Monday Monday, made famous by The Mamas and The Papas but subsequently covered, it seems, by everyone. You've probably even covered it too, maybe you've forgotten when. Anyway, from 1966 here's the Californian-sunshine soaked original, proving that sometimes the backing (Cass Elliot and Michelle Phillips' vocals, Wrecking Crew playing) can be more important than the apparent lead.

That's alright, I guess, and is musically very different to the next offering, Bob and his boys, trying to ride on the coat-tails of punk but really veering into new wave territories. The subject matter for this song filled lots of tabloid column-inches at the time, if I remember rightly. Anyway, sorry Bob but looking back it's Johnnie Fingers' piano that makes this song stand out. Anyway, let's be honest, who does like Mondays?

Let's close with undoubtedly the best song in the universe to feature 'Monday' in the title, in all its "12-inch sold at a loss" glory. So influential, so important, so enduring. I punned on the title of this for my Blue Friday blog series, but really it's Monday that was, is and ever shall be blue.

See you tomorrow for ... guess what?

Sunday, 22 January 2023


For my money, Kirsty MacColl was one of the great voices of the 20th Century. No-one else sounded quite like her, and she (re-)interpreted songs so well it's sometimes hard to imagine others singing them. She took Billy's New England and ran with it, and her version of Days is probably the one I'd have at a funeral, rather than The Kinks original. Here's Kirsty's slightly surreal promo video for it:

The first comment after this on YouTube nails it: "Kirsty sings it straight. No warbling, no bollocks, no fake American accent. Just a straightforward, emotional delivery." Can't say fairer than that. However, the audio on this version is very quiet, so here's a more audible rendition from TOTP:

Oddly, the producer seems keener on showing the studio than Kirsty. Shame.

For completeness, here's the Kinks original:

All of which serves as a needless introduction to a new blog mini-series, starting tomorrow. Is there no beginning to the excitement?

Wednesday, 18 January 2023

Monday, 9 January 2023

About bookmarks

I have a complicated relationship with Twitter. I mostly dislike it, especially the chaotic version that has been in place since the Musk takeover... but I can't seem to tear myself away completely, because just occasionally it throws something up that I perhaps wouldn't otherwise have seen.

Like most people, I retweet things that I think need or deserve greater attention, and like things that I want to show support for (whether I actually "like" them or, rather, feel some other emotion in response, like sympathy). I guess most people do something similar. But how do you use bookmarks? I tend to use them as a reminder to come back to something when time or circumstance allow. By circumstance, I most often mean when I'm somewhere I can play a song or video without issue. Anyway, the upshot of this approach (and the raison d'être for this post) is that I end up with a backlog of bookmarked tweets that I often don't get around to ever actually catching up with; in other words, I have a virtual to-read pile almost as big as my real one.

All of which is an overly wordy and slightly boring introduction to a cheap post that relies solely on embedding other people's content. I know, the shame... but regardless, in no particular order here's a small selection of the many, many tweets I've bookmarked in the last three months. Enjoy, or not.

And that's only a fraction of it, but there - I've done Twitter for you. You can thank me later (or not).

Sunday, 1 January 2023

Keeping the winter at bay

Okay, let's do another year, shall we? Appropriately, this is January Hymn by indie folk-rockers The Decemberists, from their punningly-titled 2011 album The King Is Dead. Finger on the pulse, me.

On a winter's Sunday I go
To clear away the snow
And green the ground below
April all an ocean away
Is this a better way to spend the day?
Keeping the winter at bay
Where were the words I meant to say
Before you left
When I could see your breath lead
Where you were going to
Maybe I should just let it be
And maybe it will all come back to me
Seeing, oh, January, oh
How I lived a childhood in snow
And all my teens in tow
Stuffed in strata of clothes
Hail the winter days after dark
Wandering the grey memorial park
A fleeting beating of hearts
Where were the words I meant to say
Before she left
When I could see her breath lead
Where she was going to
Maybe I should just let it be
And maybe it will all come back to me
Seeing, oh, Janu... oh, January, oh.