Thursday 27 June 2024


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

No, not Bachman Turner Overdrive. Johnnie Walker has a feature on his 6 Music radio show called BTO - Better Than Original. Listeners write in to propose cover versions that are, as the feature suggests, better than the original.

So without further ado, from 1980 here's the original Getting Nowhere Fast by Girls At Our Best! (their exclamation, not mine).

Good though that is, I think the 1987 cover by The Wedding Present is better:

Tip the authorWhich do you prefer?

Monday 24 June 2024

The lifecycle of a song

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

I've had these three videos languishing in my YouTube Watch Later list for a few years now, so it's time I stopped prevaricating ("the enemy of achievement," after all) and did something with them. And what better day than Paul McCartney's birthday to highlight three markedly different versions of the same Beatles song.

First up, the original studio version of I'm Down, written by Sir Thumbs-aloft and released in July 1965 as the B-side to Help. It's a straight up-and-down rocker that really showcases Macca's vocal range and ability to wail. Amazing to think, if YouTube comments are to be believed, that the next song to be recorded after this was the couldn't-be-more-different Yesterday. Anyway, here's I'm Down after being given a sympathetic remaster in 2009.

Even without the remastering, this feels tight and orderly. Four lads that shook the world they may have been, but they knew how to behave in the studio too.

Compare this to a loose and limber live rendition as part of the Blackpool Night Out, filmed for TV on the 1st August 1965. The second track in a six song set, this is a little rawer, for sure, but still accomplished and utterly confident live, as only bands that have ground it out on stage together for years, and in all circumstances, can be. John's keyboard solo is a joy.

Next up, another live performance, this time at the Circus-Krone-Bau in Munich and recorded exactly 58 years ago on 24th June, 1966. Nearly a year has passed since Blackpool, and lots has changed. First, there's Paul's intro in German - clearly those years in Hamburg had a lasting effect. Then there's the start of the song - Paul cannot remember the lyrics, and gets them nearly all wrong or in the wrong order, despite John's attempts to remind him. Note Ringo's reaction about 59 seconds in as Paul fluffs another line. Then comes the guitar solo, for which John puts his hands behind his back so as not to crash George's moment. The band look visibly less ordered than in Blackpool, and you wonder whether they might have had a drink, or a smoke, before going on. They certainly look more "relaxed" and you couldn't blame them for this, surely, nor for forgetting the words - they were living in a whirlwind, the likes of which we cannot imagine. And yet, despite the "loosening" of the band, and the song, the performance still sounds great.

The Beatles tended to close their set with either this or Long Tall Sally for every live performance they gave from here on, continuing through Germany, Japan, the Philipines and the USA, right through to their last ever stadium gig at Candlestick Park on the 29th August that year (a Sally night, since you ask). I wonder if they got any better at remembering how to play it by the end of the tour? And has Paul solo ever played it live? Any Beatles obessives out there know?Tip the author

Friday 21 June 2024

Another one gone

Another sabbatical break for another RIP post. Donald Sutherland has died, aged 88.

Most obits will rightly wax lyrical about his role in the excellent Don't Look Now, or about his fantastic turn more recently as tyrannical President Snow in the Hunger Games trilogy. But of all the films he made or was involved in, the 1978 remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers will always be my favourite. This first clip features a cameo from Kevin McCarthy, who starred in the 50s original.

And of course there's the famous ending:

Such a good film. Avoid all subsequent remakes, you can't top this.

As for Donald, RIP. I think his son Kiefer summed it up perfectly; a life well lived indeed.

Monday 17 June 2024

Already seven years ago

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

I don't understand how this is already seven years ago, this very day. Where does the time go?

When they first returned to the fray, original lead guitarist Ed Bazalgette was involved, as you can see, and I liked that. Nothing against Dave's son Dan, who has slotted into place nicely in subsequent years, but when it comes to reforming, three quarters of the original line-up will always be better than half. Anyway, seven years ago today... enjoy!Tip the author

Friday 14 June 2024

The sincerest form of flattery

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

This is What Happens Next, track eight on Danish band Northern Portrait's frankly brilliant 2014 album, Criminal Art Lovers.

Remind you of anyone? Here's track nine, the splendidly titled That's When My Headaches Begin.

And these aren't even the most Smithsonian tracks on an album that I bloody love. Best Discogs purchase ever.Tip the author

Wednesday 12 June 2024

Train to ... the end

This is the fourth time so far that I've broken my year long sabbatical, and the third time that the reason has been the inevitable: the death of someone I admired. Or, in this case, deaths.

First up, Françoise Hardy, whose death was announced yesterday. Her recorded works provide quite the YouTube rabbit hole, but I am going to stick to type and feature her collaboration with Blur on To The End. Not the album version though, but the alternate take (La Comedie) in which they ramp up the Gallic 60s vibe: Françoise takes lead vocals, Damon takes backup, the accordion gets even more time and the video, of course, is in black and white. You can almost taste the Gauloises smoke. Hard to believe this is 30 years ago ... time, etc.

Secondly, I've just read at Dubhed of the death of Arthur "Gaps" Hendrickson, of The Selecter. I saw them live in 2013, in Whitstable of all places, and was very chuffed to get his and Pauline Black's autographs after the show, Sharpied across the cover of a CD. Pauline has always got more attention, but Gaps was an essential part of the Selecter sound. Here they are, adding their 2-Tone credentials to a live rendition of Train to Skaville for Jools Holland's Hootenanny shindig in 2015. Yes, only nine years ago, but pre-Brexit and pre-Covid ... time, etc.


Monday 10 June 2024

Monday long song: Sing

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

The signs were there, right from the start, when they were called Seymour, although their sound would change a lot before they finally became the Britpop behemoth we know today. Early song Sing finally emerged on their 1991 debut album, Leisure, by which time they were called Blur. Graham's droning guitar still sounds brilliant, especially through good headphones.

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Friday 7 June 2024

Long sleeves for the summer

Sony Walkman NW-E005
So here I am, breaking my own sabbatical for a one-off post to basically publicise my own YouTube content. Shameless, right? But this is what happens when you have a sort out.

For combing through a box of old cables, adapters and other tech ephemera, I stumbled upon my first MP3 player, the rather splendid Sony NW-E005 (left). Basically a glorified USB stick with a headphone socket and a dot-matrix display. I fired it up to see what was on it and was unsurprised to find all the usual suspects. It's nearly 20 years old but, of course, my tastes haven't really changed, so there weren't too many surprises.

However, I did find three slightly rare Gene radio session tracks. As far as I'm aware, none of these ever had any kind of official release, and were previously only available on the bootleg Lost in the Fog, curated and made available as a digital download by Gene super-fan Lewis Slade. But sadly even Lewis's website is gone now, so I guess if you don't have the bootleg already, finding a copy is going to be hard. I know I downloaded it, so it's probably on an old laptop somewhere. But back then, these are the three tracks I recognised for their quality and rarity, enough to be the only three I put on my MP3 player. Which means that now, I can put them up on YouTube for everyone to enjoy (and I didn't want to wait another seven months for my sabbatical to end before I could broadcast that fact).

First up, well, I don't think there have been too many Take That songs on this blog over the years. But here's Gene covering Back For Good for Steve Lamacq back in January 2000, and having a good laugh doing so, by the sound of it.

And then there are two tracks recorded for Gideon Coe's 6 Music show in November 2004, just a few short weeks before the band's last ever gigs. It's not the whole band - Martin and Steve run through a beautiful acoustic Long Sleeves for the Summer ("one from the mid-Sixties"), and then Martin is accompanied by someone called Howard on piano for the sadly prophetic Let Me Move On. Enjoy.

And what do all the serious YouTubers say? "Don't forget to like, comment and subscribe!" Or do forget, you know. I'm even less prolific on YouTube than I am here.

Tuesday 4 June 2024

Lactose tolerant

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

Apparently, today is National Cheese Day. I know, me neither. I imagine it was dreamed up by whatever the cheese equivalent of the old Milk Marketing Board is. Whatever, here are some cheese "facts" I have shamelessly cribbed, almost verbatim, from another website:

  • According to data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the countries with the highest per capita cheese consumption are France, Iceland, and Finland.
  • The world's most expensive cheese is called Pule and is made from donkey milk. It is produced in Serbia and can cost up to £500 per pound.
  • According to the International Dairy Foods Association, the first cheese is believed to have been created serendipitously more than 4,000 years ago. Apparently an Arabian merchant had put his supply of milk into a pouch made from a sheep's stomach. Leaving it all day, rennet from the stomach caused the milk to separate into curds and whey.... and the rest is cheestory.
  • The UK produces over 700 varieties of cheese, making it one of the largest cheese producers in the world. Well done us.

So there's only one song to feature today, isn't there? Besides, the blog could use some Tim Minchin...

And all I can say to The Man Of Cheese is, it's probably a good thing this song didn't exist when we were at school, because it's all you would have heard from some quarters...Tip the author