Monday 8 April 2024

Monday long song: Astradyne

Disclaimer: this post was written in December 2023, and scheduled for future posting. Its contents may no longer be accurate or appropriate.

I'm not sure that Ultravox get remembered kindly enough. The received wisdom is that they were a serious synth outfit until John Foxx left and was replaced by Midge Ure, who took them in a more commercial, and implicitly less serious, direction.

Well, if that is correct, and it's a big 'if', then Vienna was the pivot around which everything swung. I'm not talking about the brilliant bombast of the single (Joe Dolce though, eh?) but the album of the same name, every second of which is a nailed-on, stone-cold synth classic.

My big sister's best friend had the album, which is how I came by a very hissy taped copy in 1980. This, Astradyne, was track one, side one, and it knocked me sideways.

Tip the authorStill sounds bloody great, I reckon.

Monday 1 April 2024

Plonk

Disclaimer: this post was written in December 2023, and scheduled for future posting. Its contents may no longer be accurate or appropriate.

What do charity-shop CD section stalwart Susan Boyle, where-is-he-now TV presenter Phillip Schofield, bespectacled 90s ginge Chris Evans, Noughties chart-botherer Hannah Spearritt and YouTube non-boxer Logan Paul all have in common? Well, today is their birthday ... but (and it's a massive but) you'll be relieved to hear I'm not going to write about any of them.

Fortunately for us all, April 1st was also the late Ronnie Lane's birthday, he of Faces fame, both Small and, er, unclassified.

With Steve Marriott, Ronnie co-wrote most of The Small Faces' hits, so picking one for today, especially one that I haven't featured before, is going to be hard, because there was a time when I blogged about them often. However, here is a live for TV recording of All Or Nothing that amply demonstrates the distinctive bass sound that earned Lane the affectionate nickname of Plonk.

After the regular-sized Faces broke up in '73, Ronnie recorded a number of albums as Ronnie Lane's Slim Chance, and famously collaborated with Pete Townshend in 1977 on Rough Mix, to the delight of old mods everywhere, no doubt. But he never recaptured the success of The Small Faces and Faces. Then, at the tail end of the 70s, Ronnie was diagnosed with multiple schlerosis. Although he continued to work through the 80s, this became harder; his last live performance was in 1992. By '94 he was living in Trinidad, to benefit from the climate, and his increasing medical expenses were being underwritten by Jimmy Page, Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood, since incredibly no royalties from Small Faces' hits were forthcoming.

Ronnie died in 1997, aged just 51. Gone but most definitely not forgotten, his influence on subsequent generations is illustrated well by the songs that have been written about him. You might expect (and will get) Traveller's Tune by Ocean Colour Scene and He's The Keeper by Paul Weller, but let's start with the perhaps less-expected A Trip Down Ronnie Lane by Ride.

Let's finish up with what remains Ronnie's best-known solo track, The Poacher, fittingly enough for circularity in another live for TV recording. Happy birthday, Ron.

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Sunday 24 March 2024

Favourite groups? None, really.

Disclaimer: this post was written in December 2023, and scheduled for future posting. Its contents may no longer be accurate or appropriate.

On this very day, 30 years ago, kids' magazine Look-in published this "interview" with The Smiths. The thing I love about it, aside from the occasionally comedic answers, is that all four band members got an equal moment in the interview spotlight. I wonder what SPM made of Andy's liking for steak...?

Look-in magazine interview of The Smiths, 24th March 1984

I also love Johnny's hobby: "Playing guitar".

Anyway, here are the four tracks identified by the band as their favourite records:

Andy's choice
Morrissey's choice
Johnny's choice
Mike's choice

The title of this post comes from SPM's response when asked to name his favourite groups. I'm frankly amazed he didn't say "The Smiths".Tip the author

Monday 18 March 2024

The hold that she had

Disclaimer: this post was written in December 2023, and scheduled for future posting. Its contents may no longer be accurate or appropriate.

She didn't live in a meadow by a pond - she lived in a first-floor flat, not far from The Cross Keys, but that's far less poetic. Notwithstanding that, she certainly touched me for a moment, an impossibly high number of years ago. I have often thought of the Jonbar point she and I pivoted around, a quarter of a century or so ago, and the cost of my naïve misunderstanding. What might have been? We shall never know. Probably best not to even think about it, not if I want to sleep at nights.

What I do know is that today is her birthday. She doesn't read this blog, or even know of its existence, which is all that enables me to write the previous paragraph, and post this song. Happy birthday.

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Friday 15 March 2024

The Cavalier years

Disclaimer: this post was written in December 2023, and scheduled for future posting. Its contents may no longer be accurate or appropriate.

If I've got this right (and that's by no means certain, given the challenges of scheduling posts months in advance), this evening will see Comic Relief on the Beeb. Now, I know you're not allowed to say this, because it's all for charidee, but not all the comedy on offer this evening will be that funny. So here's a 15-minute CR special from 1988, can you believe, that still is. Stephen Fry's King Charles is particularly enjoyable...

Cromwell: The moment has arrived. Are you ready to meet your maker?
King Charles: Well, I'm always absolutely fascinated to meet people from all walks of life but, er, yes, particularly manufacturing industry.

It's just snappy, quotable line after snappy, quotable line...

"...your family's record in the department of cunning planning is about as impressive as Stumpy Oleg McNoleg's personal best in the Market Harborough marathon..."

"...I'm a busy man and I can't be bothered to punch you at the moment. Here is my fist. Kindly run towards it as fast as you can."

Tip the authorThey don't make them like this any more, sadly.

Tuesday 12 March 2024

Amazing

Disclaimer: this post was written in December 2023, and scheduled for future posting. Its contents may no longer be accurate or appropriate.

On this day in 1969, Paul McCartney married Linda Eastman. The BBC's news coverage of the day reported that "hundreds of people gathered outside the Marylebone Register Office to catch a glimpse of the couple as they arrived" and that "a dozen policemen were on hand to fend off enthusiastic teenagers, many of whom were distraught that the last remaining bachelor Beatle was tying the knot". Apparently the ceremony was delayed because the best man, Paul's brother Mike, was late - he had been travelling from Birmingham where he had been performing with his band, The Scaffold, the night before, and his train was delayed. Plus ça change, right?

Paul and Linda's marriage certainly endured, unlike so many others in showbusiness. And he wrote this ...

Baby, I'm amazed at the way you love me all the time
And maybe I'm afraid of the way I love you
Maybe I'm amazed at the way you pulled me out of time
You hung me on a line
Maybe I'm amazed at the way I really need you

Tip the authorWhat an absolute cracker, still. But blimey, Paul, you're making the rest of us look bad - a bunch of flowers from the 24-hr garage doesn't really measure up, does it?

Thursday 7 March 2024

Karaoke time

Disclaimer: this post was written in December 2023, and scheduled for future posting. Its contents may no longer be accurate or appropriate.

Do you have a karaoke stand-by? Something you can manage a passable rendition of, should a microphone be forcefully pressed into your reluctant hand? I once, drunkenly, attempted Roxanne by The Police but that was a mistake - Sting's voice is very high in the chorus. REM, Bowie and Morrissey have provided me with safer ground, at various times. One thing's for sure, I have never been drunk enough to attempt Daltrey vocal gymnastics like this:

Ah. There's nothing I don't love about that clip. Anyway, here's how Baba O'Riley should be performed live - a track which remains a career highpoint for The Who, in my humble.

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Sunday 3 March 2024

Places to go, people to see

Disclaimer: this post was written in December 2023, and scheduled for future posting. Its contents may no longer be accurate or appropriate.

If all goes to plan, by the time this post goes live this will be the state of my travel map. At a meagre 31 countries it's getting there, but there's still so far to go. Lucky international travel is so cheap these days, eh? Oh, hang on, it's ruinously expensive. Sigh.

Travel map

Of the many countries I haven't been to and you have, which would you most recommend, and why?Tip the author

Wednesday 28 February 2024

Elevation

Disclaimer: this post was written in December 2023, and scheduled for future posting. Its contents may no longer be accurate or appropriate.

I've written many times before about the fine margins that often separate a song, or a band, from being great or being also-rans. But what elevates a song, and makes it special? Can it just be one thing?

Ian McCulloch and, by extension Echo and the Bunnymen, grew out of a fertile late-70s Liverpool scene that gave us plenty that made it (Julian Cope and Pete Wylie being two further examples) and plenty that didn't (... er, the fact that I don't have examples illustrates how they have been forgotten). So how thin is the dividing line between being good and being great? Between being transient and lingering in the memory?

Example, you say?

Well, there was a fair amount of guitar-led indie jangle in 1984, much of it confined to the Recycle Bin of the mental hard drive. But Seven Seas doesn't just linger on, it still sounds fantastic. Why? What elevates it? Well, there are some lovely guitar motifs running through it, it has a catchy melody and the artfully odd lyrics help (we've all kissed a tortoise shell, right?) But what really elevates this song, for me, not just above most of the guitar-led indie jangle of the day but also above other Bunnymen output is Ian's understated vocal ululation at the end of each verse (for example, at about 39 seconds in, below).

Tip the author1984 was a good year for music, and this is right up there with the best of it all. Probably my favourite Bunnymen track too. What's yours?

Thursday 22 February 2024

I wasn't really sure what was going on

Disclaimer: this post was written in December 2023, and scheduled for future posting. Its contents may no longer be accurate or appropriate.

Mother of god, this blog is nineteen years old today. Cue an obvious song. The impact of this, and the accompanying video, on the teenage me is hard to overstate - when this came out, it looked and sounded so completely new and fresh. I even taped the video off the TV (probably Top of the Pops), so I could watch and rewatch it on grainy VHS. It was just so different. Ironic, then, that I post it to celebrate the birthday of something that is basically the same, week in, week out. Whatever. Paul Hardcastle's 19 might have dated a bit, but the video remains powerful.

Unlike this blog, 19 was a global smash, as shown by Wikipedia below. It even did well in the US, despite the subject matter. Or maybe because of.

Global chart positions for '19' by Paul Hardcastle

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Tuesday 20 February 2024

Not so little now

Disclaimer: this post was written in December 2023, and scheduled for future posting. Its contents may no longer be accurate or appropriate.

Like I need an excuse for a spot of Gene...

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Wednesday 14 February 2024

Waving flags. Probably a white one.

Disclaimer: this post was written in December 2023, and scheduled for future posting. Its contents may no longer be accurate or appropriate.

Sea Power are playing quite near to me, tonight. They're touring to celebrate the fifteenth anniversary of the album Do You Like Rock Music? which, you might recall, I like so much it's on the Every Home Should Have One masterlist. So naturally I'm going to the gig, right?

Well, I might be, I might not. Because February 14th is not a great date for telling your significant other that you're off out to a gig on your own. "Don't wait up, see you in the morning," all of that ...

So in case I don't make it, this is Waving Flags from that album I boringly drone on about so very often. Put your arm around someone you love and enjoy.

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Monday 12 February 2024

First, last

Disclaimer: this post was written in December 2023, and scheduled for future posting. Its contents may no longer be accurate or appropriate.

I wrote once before (twelve years ago, somehow) about my love of Pulp's album His'n'Hers. It may be an unfashionable view but I prefer it to Different Class, good though that also is. With His'n'Hers, Pulp were getting there but still not massive; they still felt like they belonged to "us" rather than "them". Take the song below, Do You Remember The First Time?, extracted from the album as a single and released in March 1994, whereupon it peaked at number 33 in the chart. A career best for the band, to that point, but hardly setting the world alight, which seems crazy in retrospect: were there really 32 better songs being bought at the time? I'll save you a click, Doop by Doop was #1 that week, which tells you all you need to know (sorry but I'm not linking to that on principle).

Pulp even had a cracking video, though it seems slightly odd now to see Jarvis without glasses.

Fun fact, that (the song, not the video) was produced by Ed Buller, perhaps most famous, at that point, for his knob-twiddling activities with Suede. Anyway, fourteen months after the magnificence of the above, Britpop anthem (© every lazy music journalist, 90s club-night promoter and compilation compiler, ever since) Common People soared to #2 in the charts, and something changed (see what I did there?) But I still remember the first time...

Tip the authorP.S. Another fun fact: Pulp, like The Who, never had a number one single: Common People was held off the top spot by that anodyne cover of Unchained Melody by Robson & Jerome, for crying out loud; almost as hard to believe, double A-side Sorted For E'z and Wizz/Mis-shapes entered the chart at #2 but was held off by Simply Red's Fairground. Chart injustices to rival Joe Dolce...)

Friday 9 February 2024

Blue Friday: Fuel to Fire

Disclaimer: this post was written in December 2023, and scheduled for future posting. Its contents may no longer be accurate or appropriate.

As I write this, way back in the comparative safety of December '23, series two of the equal parts gripping and annoying drama Vigil is being heavily trailed on BBC1. All of which reminds me of this track, Fuel to Fire, by Agnes Obel, which was used in series one. I don't know anything about Agnes that can't be gleaned from her Wikipedia entry. However, I do know that this track is atmospheric, borderline haunting, and sticks in the mind, especially the simple piano motif throughout the verses. Good video too.

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Wednesday 7 February 2024

It's too bad we gotta get old

Sadly, but inevitably, I guess, I'm breaking my own sabbatical for another (somewhat belated) RIP post. He might have been in Predator and, for Amusements Minor's generation, The Mandalorian but for me Carl Weathers will always be Apollo Creed. As such, he fills an important part in my personal film-watching history (Rocky was on ITV4 again last night, for the n-hundredth time, so I watched it, for the n-hundredth time). He also provided me with much quotable dialogue, particularly useful in banter with my good friend Tim, for whom the Rocky films are also important.

Here's the closing scene from Rocky III. Yes, it's in a toss-up with V for the worst film in the franchise, but it does have this nice scene, at least. You want to ring the bell, Carl? "Ding, ding..."

Only one of these men looked like a credible heavyweight boxer...Only one of these men looked like a credible heavyweight boxer

Here's a proper obit for Carl. Just keep punching, Apollo.Tip the author

Monday 5 February 2024

Mariachi Brown

Disclaimer: this post was written in December 2023, and scheduled for future posting. Its contents may no longer be accurate or appropriate.

This has been languishing in my YouTube Watch Later list for at least seven years, if not more. It's not going to do either of us any good, is it, just sitting there, so I'd better post it and we can all move on. Here's Mariachi Mexteca (now known as The Mariachis) featuring Hugh Cornwell in their cover of my favourite Stranglers song.

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Wednesday 31 January 2024

Happy birthday, Debi...

Disclaimer: this post was written in December 2023, and scheduled for future posting. Its contents may no longer be accurate or appropriate.

I'm sort of permanently enamoured of Minnie Driver, whose 54th birthday it is today. "Debi" was her character in Grosse Pointe Blank, as you will know if you'd read my post about when I met Minnie at CarFest '22.

No songs today (although Minnie has had a recording career too), just posting this so I can watch and listen to Minnie talk films. Sigh...

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Thursday 25 January 2024

How we used to live

Disclaimer: this post was written in December 2023, and scheduled for future posting. Its contents may no longer be accurate or appropriate.

A mid-programme selection of television adverts from ITV and the long hot summer of 1976.

Lots to enjoy here: the deadpan pay-off from the Birds Eye voiceover; the Smash robots; Bernard Cribbins voicing a prototype Busby for BT; Lorraine Chase on a Campari ad ("Nice 'ere, innit?"); the Bilko-esque Corona fizzical; an of-its-time slice of 70s machismo for Yorkie; and a hot-off-the press ad for cold Guinness, reacting to the (then) unprecedented heatwave.

Tip the authorA simpler time, and better for it, I think.

Wednesday 17 January 2024

Yes It Is

Disclaimer: this post was written in December 2023, and scheduled for future posting. Its contents may no longer be accurate or appropriate.

In 1976, EMI re-released all The Beatles UK singles. They had matching green front covers, and release-appropriate photographs on the back, much like these:

Ticket To Ride 1976 re-relase - backTicket To Ride 1976 re-relase - front

I can't remember the who, when or how but at some point somebody bought me two of these. They quickly became especially important to me, in part because I had very few records of my own back then. I had I Want To Hold Your Hand b/w This Boy and Ticket To Ride b/w Yes It Is (above). I'm not going to write about the A-sides, because there can't be many people in the known universe who aren't already familiar with them. But I hope this explains why This Boy and Yes It Is are, for me, every bit as familiar, engrained, and beloved.

So why am I posting about a sexagenarian song now, in 2024, rather than at any other point in this blog's longish and undistinguished history? Well, brace yourselves for a tenuous link, because today is Susanna Hoff's 65th (?!) birthday, giving me all the excuse I need to post a live radio rendition of Yes It Is by The Bangles, itself now twelve years old.

Happy birthday, Susanna (obligatory sigh, etc...)Tip the author

Thursday 11 January 2024

Crazy? Ditto.

Disclaimer: this post was written in December 2023, and scheduled for future posting. Its contents may no longer be accurate or appropriate.

I heard Crazy Again by Gossip on 6 Music over the Christmas period. Whisper it quietly but I rather like it.

Yes, I know it is not my usual bag by any means. And yes, I know I have struggled a bit to warm to Beth Ditto in the past, partly because the music press got very excited about her but for what I thought were the wrong reasons, possibly even disingenuous reasons. But enough of my miserable old man schtick. This song: the simple, repeated guitar line on top of this really worms its way into your ear, I think. And there's a bit in the middle where some of the percussion sounds a bit like an Eighties Ariston advert. I approve.

The video is rather good too, and funny ("This weather really sucks dick..."). Though I should probably add that, unless you work somewhere very laid back, it might be considered NSFW in a few places.

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Friday 5 January 2024

Hutch

Well, it had to happen. I'm only five days into my sabbatical but have to break it, briefly, because I've just heard that David Soul has died and, with him, another piece of my childhood. The statement his wife has put out describes an "actor, singer, storyteller, creative artist and dear friend" which is all true, no doubt, but to me and anyone close to my age he was Hutch, pure and simple. No late-70s Christmas was complete for me without the Starsky and Hutch annual, and although I preferred Starsky (I had the Corgi Ford Torino, of course, with the least undercover livery of all time), Hutch was essential. Morecambe and Wise, strawberries and cream, Starsky and Hutch.

I'm not going to post Silver Lady or Don't Give Up On Us (both UK chart-toppers, don't forget) because that was the sort of nonsense girls like my sister were into, and I was a boy, into cars and American cop shows and wearing your jeans in the bath so they'd allegedly shrink to fit like S&H's (really). So instead, here's the iconic S&H title sequence. Series 1 had different music, and was clearly going for a slightly grittier, Serpico-lite feel. The TV audiences of the day didn't want Serpico though, lite or otherwise, so the show got less edgy and more commercial; here's the re-edited Series 2 title sequence with the music that everyone remembers best. He hurt his back, you know, jumping off that wall onto the roof of his car (43s in).

Tip the authorRIP Hutch. May your heaven be filled with go-go dancers in leopard-print bikinis that you can look at until your best mate blows on your cheek. Maybe go easy on clambering in and out of swimming pools fully clothed. Right, now back to the sabbatical. I wrote 1,100 words of fiction yesterday, you know?

Monday 1 January 2024

Monday long song: Pure & Easy

Disclaimer: this post was written in December 2023, and scheduled for future posting. Its contents may no longer be accurate or appropriate.

The November issue of Uncut magazine had a big article on The Who, specifically on the forthcoming deluxe edition re-issue of Who's Next coupled with tracks from the troubled and much mythologised Lifehouse project. Excitingly, for Who fans everywhere, the magazine's cover mount CD had ten Who tracks, handpicked from that deluxe edition. It's been in my car, doing sterling service, ever since. But here's the thing - I say "handpicked" as a throwaway description, but I wonder if the tracks were handpicked by Mr Townshend? He certainly has lead vocal duties on six of the ten tracks, in part because some of them are his home studio demos, and Roger wouldn't have been around. But if you'd just landed from another planet, and this disc was your first exposure to The Who, you'd be forgiven for wondering who the nuclear-powered guest vocalist was on the incendiary live rendition of Won't Get Fooled Again.

Anyway, this is Pete's home demo of Pure & Easy, and in the accompanying magazine article he describes it thus:

For Tommy, the founding song was 'Amazing Journey', which told the whole back story, the under story, of it. And 'Pure And Easy' did the same for Lifehouse, which is why it’s such a shame it was left off Who's Next. It was easy to write and it was a pleasure to write. It’s very simple, just three chords, basically. I wrote it on piano.

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