Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Radio Songs #40: Suicide is Painful

One thing I quickly learnt when I was working as a "producer" (answering phones) on the late night phone in was that people love to commit suicide live on air. I suppose there's a couple of basic reasons for this...

1) It's a cry for help. You want someone to stop you and help you but the only way you can think of getting that help is to do it on as public a platform as possible. I suppose the modern day equivalent would be writing a facebook post to tell everyone you've just taken an overdose... but of course, we didn't have facebook back then.

2) It's a cry for attention. You don't want anyone to stop you but you do want people to know what you've done. And maybe give a big old F-U to the world in the process. Like those people who throw themselves off motorway bridges, regardless of the consequences to others.

From the point of view of a phone-in show, suicides are a pain in the arse... but they also make riveting radio. Nobody's turning off the go to bed while that call's on.

I think it's fair to say that neither of the presenters I worked with during my time on the phone-in wanted to exploit someone in their darkest hour; they always genuinely wanted to help. We wouldn't automatically put someone on air if they called up claiming to have taken an overdose. The first thing I had to do was try to get them to take help. Work out where they were, if it was a genuine threat or just a wind-up, get a number we could pass on to the police, that sort of thing. If they wouldn't give that information to me, I would try to get them to call Samaritans. There were all kinds of rules: moral, ethical, legal. But ultimately, every situation was different. And a lot of people wouldn't call up and say they wanted to kill themselves, they'd only reveal that fact when they'd got on air. It was a minefield.

On many occasions, we did get people help. I lost count of the times I had to call 999 (the quickest way of getting through to the police back then... we never had a direct line, despite the frequency of this occurrence) and go through the motions of passing on someone's number, often while the presenter kept them talking. Or the times an on-air conversation would end when the police came knocking at the caller's front door... or pulled up outside their phone box.

Suicides always made the switchboards go wild. After we'd had one on, you could guarantee callers for the rest of the show. A lot would be offering help, advice and support. Telling their own stories of times that they'd felt a similar way and how they'd managed to turn their lives around. But we'd also get a few... less sympathetic... reactions too. At the time (budding writer that I was), I kept a notebook and I dug it out and found my Top 3 reactions to such a call. They're virtually word-for-word the things people said to me at the time...

1. "I'd like to complain. People do not want to hear this sort of thing on the radio. They want gardening tips, stuff like that. Cut this bloke off now or I'm writing to Offcom."

2. "This bloke you've got on now... he doesn't know anything. I lost a leg in the war. He's got it easy! Tell him to stop moaning. He doesn't know how good he's got it."

3. "Give him my number. One good night with me and he'd forget all his problems..."

Heartless bastards, right? Then again... after a while, I became rather inured to these kinds of callers myself. They stopped being stressful, they became just another niggle of the job. You develop a morbid sense of humour, like ambulance drivers or A&E doctors, I guess. It's a way of coping. At the time, I was really into Julian Cope, and so it didn't take long before I gave these callers a nickname. They were Peggies. "Another bloody Peggy on line 2 - I'll call the police." It wasn't that I didn't have sympathy for their situations, but at the end of the day, if things are really that bad... seek professional help. Don't call a bloody radio phone-in. You don't call a plumber if you've got an ingrowing toenail, do you?

40. Indeep - Last Night A DJ Saved My Life

A song that has been claimed and repurposed by dance culture over the last couple of decades, but I still have a certain fondness for the original, particularly the clunky rap towards the end...

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Hot 100 #75

We all know what Dave Grohl did after the sad death of Kurt Cobain and the end of Nirvana. Bassist Krist Novoselic was slightly less successful in maintaining a career in the music industry. His own post-Nirvana band Sweet 75 lasted one album, but it does give us an image to open this week's entry in the Hot 100...

Onto your suggestions for #75, the most popular of which was this...

The Connells - 74/75

A fine tune, but is it a 74 song or a 75 song? What a dilemma. It's definitely a year song. I'm not saying I won't use it next week if I get desperate... but it's not my obvious winner this week.

As well as suggesting this, Martin also offered the following. I'm not sure if any of them are in his record collection, or whether he's just resorting to google. If he does own them all, well...much respect.

Joe Nichols - Sunny & 75 (Martin told me not to youtube it. I did. I think I liked it more than he does. But then, I love cheese. Joe Nichols does seem a bit smug in the video though... but I guess I would too if I was him.)

Aaron Lewis - 75 ("Better", says Martin, "if you like that kind of thing". Aaron Lewis is the lead singer of metal band Staind, but this track is acoustic country if anything. Whisper it, but I think I enjoyed Joe Nichols more.)

Brian Jonestown Massacre - Miss June 75 (Not bad, but I think I'd still rather have Joe Nichols, smug or not.)

Any of those could have been a contender... if they were in my collection. But they're not, so let's move on.

Best lyrical suggestion of the week came from Rigid Digit and Alyson...

Billy Joel - Scenes From An Italian Restaurant

Brenda and Eddie were still going steady in the summer of '75...

...and to be honest, this would have been in serious contention most other weeks. But lyrics will always be trumped by titles, if the title song is good enough. That's not to say this week's winner is better than Scenes From An Italian Restaurant, since clearly few songs are. But the selection process is very complex in this feature. I can't even begin to explain the hierarchy of it all.

Sticking with lyrics, The Swede had another T-Rex suggestion this week (Mr. Bolan is doing very well out of this feature)…

T-Rex - Funky London Childhood

The gilded cage we call '75, some is fabulous, some is jive...

Grammatically suspect, but as we've discussed before, Marc Bolan gets a pass when it comes to his use of the English language.

The Swede also offered anything from Neu's album 75 or anything by 75 Dollar Bill. Break all the rules, but worthy of mention.

Meanwhile, Jim returned from Dubai to offer the following this week, which he describes as "a bit 60's girlyish, great little tune".

Lushy - French 75

I concur.

From my own collection then... apart from the Connells, there were just two other options. Firstly this...

Stereolab - Melochord 75

If I'm honest though, I'm not sure I get Stereolab. They're one of those bands I own music by because people in the know keep telling me I should dig them.

This, on the other hand, I love. One of the bands that rode the coat-tails of the Arctic Monkeys (they were both from Sheffield) but failed to make it out of their shadow. I still have great affection for the music they recorded before they packed it all in though.

So then... do I award week 74 to The Connells? Or do you (or I) have a better suggestion? Answers on the back of a stuck-down envelope, please...

Monday, 16 July 2018

Talky Songs #6: Hard Luck Boy

6. Tom Brosseau - Hard Luck Boy

Busy weekend, so a very quick post for you today. Listen to today's talky song because it's a great little story from an artist I've only featured once here before and who doesn't get a lot of exposure (beyond Cerys on 6Music, who seems to be a fan). It's the story of a boy whose mother takes him on a journey to a department store in another town and... well, I won't spoil the ending, but the title gives you a hint. If you like it, I'd recommend checking out the album it came from (Perfect Abandon), although this is the only talky song on there... or its follow-up, North Dakota Impressions, which features another cool talky song that I have featured here before.

Call me cruel, but part of me wants to believe this is a true story. It makes Brosseau a fascinating individual if it is...

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Saturday Snapshots #41 - The Answers

Not that I'm a big Oasis fan, but I couldn't give Liam a header without then giving one to his big brother. You know how they squabble.

Don't Look Back In Anger if you didn't get any of these right. Just Roll With It... it was basically a three horse race yesterday, with Lynchie clinching it by a nose (1/2 a point for #3). Well done to C for getting #10 though.

10. Me. Or my brother. Dumping prison coffee.

I am the Son Of My Father. So is my brother.

Prison coffee is made from chicory. A dump is a tip.

Chicory Tip - Son Of My Father

9. Come on, sleepy! Have a flat white.

Matt paint is rather flat. Bianco is white.

Matt Bianco - Get Out Of Your Lazy Bed 

8. Don't let your small part get you down.

A small part is a cameo. (Larry Blackmon never had to worry about that.)

If you're not down, you're up.

Cameo - Word Up!

7. Elsie Jerkin CEO Charles V.

Anagram time, folks! Elsie Jerkin CEO is Rickie Lee Jones.

Charles V would be Chuck E because E is the 5th letter of the alphabet.

Rickie Lee Jones - Chuck E.'s In Love

6. Fraudulent freaks.

Frauds = charlatans.

Freaks = weirdoes.

(Took me ages to find a photo in which Tim Burgess's hair wasn't a giveaway.)

The Charlatans - Weirdo

5. Devout tripping.

Work this one out yourself.

Journey - Don't Stop Believing

4. Encourage humanity to score in sneakers.

Foster The People - Pumped Up Kicks

3. Catch the medal for the best Yorkshire harp at the station.

A rosette is a kind of medal.

The Yorkshire harp would be T'harp.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe - This Train

2. Lids A or B or C. Could also be scarlet.

Lids are what go on top of boxes.

A, B and C are letters. So was The Scarlet Letter.

The Box Tops - The Letter

1. A male composer and a painter get into high gear - and that's just the beginning!

Bach was a composer. A man is male. Turner was a painter. High gear is overdrive.

Let's ROCK!

Don't Go Away. Saturday Snapshots will be back next week. Try to keep off the Cigarettes and Alcohol until then...

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Saturday Snapshots #41

Some Might Say Saturday Snapshots is getting a little past its prime. To that, I say: Whatever!

Saturday Snapshots will Live Forever! (Or at least until I get bored of it.)

You know the drill. Identify ten artists and songs from the clues below, please. I promise you'll find it easier than Liam finds working that camera...

10. Me. Or my brother. Dumping prison coffee.

9. Come on, sleepy! Have a flat white.

8. Don't let your small part get you down.

7. Elsie Jerkin CEO Charles V.

6. Fraudulent freaks.

5. Devout tripping.

4. Encourage humanity to score in sneakers.

3. Catch the medal for the best Yorkshire harp at the station.

2. Lids A or B or C. Could also be scarlet.

1. A male composer and a painter get into high gear - and that's just the beginning!

Stop Crying Your Heart Out. The answers will be here tomorrow morning.

Friday, 13 July 2018

Neverending Top Ten #6.1 - World Cup Fever

I'm writing this post at 7.30pm on Wednesday the 11th of July, a confession which I'm sure will be greeted with horror by many readers of this blog... even the Scottish ones.

"You mean, you're not watching the football? The semi-final? England's greatest opportunity since 1966? You're writing a bloody music blog instead, one that gets read by 9 people if you're lucky?"

Well, yes.

But this isn't an anti-football post, I'm not going to be one of those football-loathing party poopers who whinge on about 11 overpaid morons chasing a cow's stomach round the pitch for 90 minutes etc. etc... because the game is on downstairs and Sam is watching it with his granddad. Early on in the World Cup, Louise (who's not a football fan either, but did grow up in a house of them) decided to try to encourage Sam's interest in the game, "so he won't end up as a social pariah like you".

Those weren't her exact words, but that was the general gist.

It's true that not liking football does hamper you in certain social situations, especially ones where all the blokes go off in one room and leave the women to talk about normal, sensible, real world things (and Love Island). Because one of the few things most blokes can talk about is football, and if you can't talk about it... if you can't even feign an interest... you'd be better off going out in the garden and talking to the gnomes.

This isn't the only concession I've made to the game I've held a lifelong antipathy for. Every Saturday morning I take Sam to Little Strikers, a junior football class where he can pick up skills that might mean he won't always be last to be picked for the team in P.E. when he gets a bit older.

Strange as it may seem, I once had my football dreams
But I was always the last one, the last to get chosen
When my classmates picked their teams

I guess that was the way it stayed in every game I played
Life just tripped me and clattered and kicked me
Till you picked me from the parade

At least I had one up on Billy Bragg in that regard... I never dreamed of being a football player in the first place.

Still, I do wonder whether we're doing Sam a huge disservice here. What if England actually win? What if his first experience of football, and the World Bloody Cup, is a victory? Isn't that just setting him up for a lifetime of hurt? Louise's dad was 16 in 1966... he's had to face up to crushing disappointment upon crushing disappointment ever since, but at least he was 16. You kind of expect things to gradually get worse when you're 16. It's in your teenage DNA. But Sam's only 4! If he really starts to believe the dream at such a young age... isn't that some kind of unbearable cruelty to inflict on one so young?

To be fair, I'm not actually that sure he's interested in the game itself, but he does like the statistics. Maybe he'll become a mathematician rather than a sportsman. I hope so. Better odds in that future, surely...

I don't want to play football
I don't understand the rules of the game
I don't want to play football
I don't understand the thrill of the running, catching, throwing
Taking orders from a moron
Grabbing for the sweaty crotches
Getting hit by people I don't know
Sugar, I'd rather play a different sort of game
Sugar, the girls are just as good as boy at playing

Well, by now we all know the outcome of this particular story... I'm writing this postscript on Thursday morning. Last night, when the game went to extra time, Sam decided to go to bed, "so he wouldn't be too tired in the morning". A very sensible decision for a 4 year old, but also perhaps one that reflects a dawning awareness of the harsh realities of life.

The plus side to not being a football fan is this... While a large part of the country woke up this morning feeling somewhere between crestfallen and heartbroken, I woke up feeling like I always do. (Somewhere between crestfallen and heartbroken, but not because of the football.) Sam woke up, asked what the score was, and accepted it pretty easily. (There's been lots of talk over the last couple of weeks about "being a good sport" and "not the winning but the taking part".) In the long run, it's probably a better result for him than setting him up to believe we can all be winners...

Thursday, 12 July 2018

My Top Ten Dragonfly Songs

In the UK, we're currently struggling to cope with this long-forgotten concept (some of us remember it from our childhoods, but most had started to believe it a myth) of "summer". Our native insect population is certainly having a field day, with flying ants invading Wimbledon and huge butterflies and dragonflies being sighted in gardens across the country.

What better reason to dig out ten top tunes about dragonflies?

10. Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks - Dragonfly Pie

I like a good pie as much as the next Yorkshireman, but I'm not sure I could eat one made of dragonflies.

(I think this might be about drugs. Shh. Don't tell anyone.)

9. Paul Weller - Dragonfly

Also sounds like stoner-rock.

She's like a dragonfly with no fire
Diaphanous with no intent

She's like a horse with no rider
All this space
Without the chase
Or choosing

She's like a sea with no waves
All adrift
Upon a ship

Hardly Down In The Tube Station At Midnight, is it?

8. Fleetwood Mac - Dragonfly

Early Mac, after Peter Green's departure, when Danny Kirwan was briefly in charge. This is his song, though the lyrics are from a poem by W.H. Davies. Christine McVie had just joined the Mac and can be heard on backing vocals. God, this band must surely have the most convoluted history in the whole of rock!

And when the roses are half-bud soft flowers
And lovely as the king of flies has come
It was a fleeting visit, all too brief
In three short minutes, he had been and gone

He rested there upon an apple leaf
A gorgeous opal crown sat on his head
Although the garden is a lovely place
Was it worthy of so fine a guest?

7. Paul McCartney - Little Lamb Dragonfly

Sounds like an Abbey Road outtake. Which is a good thing, whatever you might think of Sir Thumbs Aloft now.

6. The Icicle Works - As The Dragonfly Flies

In another universe, U2 never made it and The Icicle Works were the biggest band of the 80s. I'd like to live in that universe.

5. Kasey Chambers - Dragonfly

And you went to the party and I was not invited
And everybody knows that the girls are one-sided
And the boys don't cry, neither do I
When you're picking off the wings of a dragonfly

Kasey Chambers - voice like an angel... with a little devil inside.

I've done everything that you could ever imagine
I've screwed all of my friends but I'm not bragging
I wish 'em well, don't kiss and tell
'Cause I don't really want nobody else

4. Red House Painters - Dragonflies

Kozelek. From before he became a grumpy old man. Still knows how to get into your head though.

I wonder in what fields today
You're chasing dragonflies at play
My little lost girl so far away

3. Devendra Banhart - Dragonflies

Very short, but very cool.

I don't owe me any money,
You don't owe me a thing.
When we drink beer,
Dragonflies appear.
Dragonflies appear.

2. Ron Sexsmith - Dragonfly On Bay Street

Ron gets funky as a dragonfly leads to a swift career change...

Used to work as a messenger
Spent my days riding elevators
In the heart of the business world
Till one day there came a sign

In the form of a
Dragonfly on Bay Street

Buzzing round from tower to tower
At the twilight of the working hour
Had he taken a wrong turn?
Was he lost without a trace?

Just like us
Dragonfly on Bay Street

1. Boo Hewerdine - Dragonflies

Mark Nicholas Hewerdine, Boo to us, one of music's great philosophers...

A lost summer's day, a lifetime away
What do you find?
Slow turning sun, with somewhere to run
On your mind

Not the flash that you saw
That was gone in the wink of an eye
As soon as we're here
We disappear like dragonflies

Their miracle blue can never tell you
How it came to be
Each different kind, accidental designed
Before you and me

And we ask the whole of our lives
Maybe there's no why
As soon as we're here
We disappear like dragonflies

Frequent Boo-collaborator Eddi Reader does a lovely version of this too.

Any dragonflies buzzing round your collection. (I'm taking bets on which one of you mentions The

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