Wednesday, 25 April 2018

2018 Contenders: Old Girl Becomes New Sheriff

Amy Rigby has a new album out and already it's shaping up to be one of my favourites this year. I only discovered Rigby a couple of years ago, but I've been making up for lost time ever since as she's one of the best lyricists out there at the moment... and a pretty damned good blogger too.

As evidence of this, I could offer the opening track from The Old Guys, From philiproth@gmail to (no, that really is its title) in which the novelist comes to terms with the songwriter who stole his Nobel prize.

Or I could offer Are We Still There Yet? with its longing-for-simpler-times nostalgia ("turn the radio off / So we can choose between CD and cassette") - but I'll probably save that for a Mid-Life Crisis tune.         

Or what about Bob, a eulogy to the old friend that introduced Amy to Lou Reed, who she remembers every time she drinks an egg crème? You won't hear a better "happy / sad" song this year...  

Truth is, I could happily share any of the songs on this album as there's not a duff one among them, but my current favourite is this, a menacing revenge song with a chorus that will go down very well with fans of Boardwalk Empire, The Sopranos or Breaking Bad...

In my mind, I'm Nucky Thompson
In my mind, I'm Tony Soprano
In my mind... I'M WALTER WHITE...


Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Hot 100 Countdown #87

Not many takers for Number 87 on my countdown... in fact only Rigid Digit dared make any suggestions...

David Bowie - '87 and Cry

Is Never Let Me Down Bowie's worst album? It certainly hasn't aged very well. Still, this was in consideration for a little while.

Bouncing Souls - 87

Never heard this one before, but I wouldn't turn it off if it came on the wireless.

Hank Williams III - 87 Southbound

This was also briefly in contention as it does live in the deepest southern reaches of my record collection.

Other possibilities...

Hayes Carll - Highway 87

Hayes passes Hank going in the opposite direction.

Fred Thomas - Expo '87

I get so hung up high on expectations
I get so sick at restaurants and on family vacations
And I leave every situation invariably feeling dumb
But you’ve got to be a little bit dumb
Otherwise you never get anything done
And you’ve gotta be kinda hit
Otherwise you spend your time smiling entirely too much
Wincing while you’re waiting
For that next soft punch

Ah, Fred... you can't half put your finger on it.

But after listening to every 87 song in my collection, I had to crown this one the winner. From Canadian indie-folksters, The Rural Alberta Challenge, the song creates a love story amidst an infamous 1987 tornado that tore through Edmonton in Alberta.

Be warned: the video is seriously creepy!

Next... 86? Could offer some interesting contenders...

Monday, 23 April 2018

Neverending Top Ten #3.1: MOR Monday

The DJ on the radio is talking about 1972.

"1972," says Sam, taking a break from his Blaze & The Monster Machines comic. "That's a long time ago."

"Daddy was born in 1972," I remind him.

"I was born in 2013," he reminds me. "You must have seen a lot more olden day things than me, daddy."

True enough, son. Here's an olden day thing you keep asking me to play again though, from the year before daddy was born...

3.1: Middle of the Road - Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep

Written and originally recorded by Lancashire born Larry Stott (who had a hit with it in Europe and Australia), this was also released by Mac & Katie Kissoon (who took it into the US Top 40) and this Scottish folk-pop band led by Sally Carr... who took it to the top in the UK and sold over 10 million copies in the process. It's an irresistible pop song with a nursery rhyme call-and-response hook... and I loved it when I was 4 years old too.

Still do.

"If you don't like this, you don't like music..."

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Saturday Snapshots #29 - The Answers

If yesterday's clues were all a blur to you... allow me to clear them up.

10. Oy! Rossiter! This is what James Bond might drink on the dark side of the moon.

Martin Rossiter is the lead singer of Gene. Bond would have his martini shaken, not stirred, with Pink Floyd.

Pink Martini - Hey Eugene

Charity Chic got the artist, Chris solved the song.

9. Bounce! Mrs. McCartney loses a: rare grown-up caterpillar.

If something is bouncing, it's bobbing up and down. Linda - a = Lind.

Bob Lind - Elusive Butterfly

Alyson broke out of her chrysalis to solve this one.

8. Women can be just like Van Halen. Crying Clitheroe or Weeping Watford?

A Girl Called Eddy - Tears All Over Town

And another one for Alyson!

7. Split up with your lad? Don't turn a drama into a Cold War crisis.

Fall Out Boy - This Ain't A Scene, It's An Arms Race

And another one for... oh. Nobody. Guess that's a point for me then. (Unless it was answered after 9pm Saturday.)

6. Not Chubby Checker. Not New Order.

Fats Domino - Blue Monday

It never occurred to me before that Chubby Checker was just a rip off of Fats Domino. Perhaps it had occurred to Rigid Digit.

5. I'm overjoyed that you put everything you had into this.

Blood, Sweat & Tears - You've Made Me So Very Happy

Lynchie got this. Alyson kicked herself.

4. Make a big fuss while searching for Wonder Woman.

Hue & Cry - Looking For Linda

CC was this week's early bird... despite the fact that these guys had a lot more hair when they had their hits.

3. The next best thing to your daily song about Slash.

The next best thing to sliced bread?

Bread - Guitar Man

A point for C!

2. Swimsuits murder a song about Princess Leia.

Bikini Kill - Rebel Girl

Charity Chic solved this one eventually... though C and Chris were typing the title at the same time.

1. Jazz label gets mixed up with Bill Hicks musical.

The jazz label would be Bluenote. Mix it up and you get Bluetone. This song is named after a Bill Hicks record. Slight Return also owed a debt to Hicks, which was C's guess, but I prefer the track Rigid Digit eventually identified...

(This has a truly awful video - what were they thinking? - so I've posted the audio only.)

By my reckoning, this week's joint winners with 2 1/2 points each are C and CC. Well done, guys. Excellent teamwork as always.

More next week, double-decker buses permitting...

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Saturday Snapshots #29

Leave your toys in the attic this Saturday morning - come play snapshots instead!

Identify 10 artists and 10 songs from the clues below...

10. Oy! Rossiter! This is what James Bond might drink on the dark side of the moon.

9. Bounce! Mrs. McCartney loses a: rare grown-up caterpillar.

8. Women can be just like Van Halen. Crying Clitheroe or Weeping Watford?

7. Split up with your lad? Don't turn a drama into a Cold War crisis.

6. Not Chubby Checker. Not New Order.

5. I'm overjoyed that you put everything you had into this.

4. Make a big fuss while searching for Wonder Woman.

3. The next best thing to your daily song about Slash.

2. Swimsuits murder a song about Princess Leia.

1. Jazz label gets mixed up with Bill Hicks musical.

So... did any of those dudes look like a lady?

Answers in an elevator... going down tomorrow morning.

Friday, 20 April 2018

Radio Songs #34: What Are You Going To Do With Your Life? Part II

By the end of my first year as a full time (rather than weekends only) employee at the radio station - latterly a paid one! - I reached something of a turning point in my "career". For one thing, I think I was starting to realise that a full-time jocking role might well be out of my reach... or might not be as desirable as it had first seemed... much as I still enjoyed co-presenting the Saturday morning show.

That show was going pretty well, actually - there was talk of paying me for that too! I was also picking up a fair bit of weekend work as a T.O. / tech-op / technical operator. Sometimes even working on the Saturday afternoon Sport show... even though I had no interest in football. There was even talk of me claiming a few hours wages for my work in the record library... although I'd happily have carried on doing that for the free CDs. All in all, I was earning a fairly decent income for a 19 year old. But like all 19 year olds, I wanted more. Not necessarily more money though... just more future.

Added to this, there was still the dream. Working in radio was a dream job... but not THE dream job. That had always been to become a writer. To tell stories for a living. And I probably wasn't going to get to do that if I stayed in radio all my life. No, it was becoming increasingly clear that if I wanted to make a serious go of it as a writer, I had to take my education a bit further. Writers were smart and erudite types. For a start, they knew what erudite meant... and I didn't have a clue. I'd gradually come round to the idea that maybe I had to go to uni after all.

But... how could I do that and keep working in radio at the same time?

Did I have to go back to working only weekends?

And what would that mean for my glorious new expendable income?

This was a good few years before the nonsense that is tuition fees, when it was still perfectly possible to join a full-time university course for FREE, as long as you had the necessary grades... and if you did so in your home town, you could keep living at home and not rack up any student debt at all.

But still... could I live (and buy more records, comics, books, videos, cinema tickets: all those youthful necessities) just from a few hours of radio work at the weekend? Could I really go back to being skint most of the time and sponging off my parents?

And then...

And then an opportunity came up which saved me... and doomed me... all at the same time.

34. Marvin Gaye & Mary Wells - The Late Show

The internet says the album Marvin recorded with Mary in 1964 wasn't promoted well at the time. Mary was the bigger star (following her Number One with My Guy), but she left Motown soon afterwards (bad advice from her husband!), leaving Marvin to hook up with Kim Weston for his next, more successful collaboration. Marvin's star continued to rise, Mary slipped into obscurity.

They sound pretty good damned together though...

Thursday, 19 April 2018

My Top Ten Horse Racing Songs

Apparently there was a big horse race last weekend. I wouldn't know. I'm not a fan of horse races. But I do like the odd horse race song. Here's ten runners and riders... who'll be the winner?

(There's no Bob Seger in this countdown. I just like that album cover.)

Special mentions to Grand National and Race Horses.

Oh, and this old song from Racing Cars... which explains why I won't ever go for a day at the races.

10. James -  Sometimes (Lester Piggott)

One of my favourite James songs, though I've no idea why they stuck the famous tax-dodging jockey's name in brackets after the title. Various suggestions I've read online include that the beat of the song sounds like racing hooves (erm... not really) or that this was a phrase the roadie used to call out during soundcheck. We may never know, and any connection to horse racing seems tenuous at best (which is why I've placed it at Number 10)... but it's a cracking tune.

9. Dan Fogelberg - Run for the Roses

Look, if Sting wrote this, I'd be taking the piss out of him for writing a song from the second person perspective of a race horse... but I'll cut Dan Fogelberg a bit more slack because he doesn't have a stripy jumper. Make sure you've got your cheese-board ready for this one...

Born in the valley 
And raised in the trees 
Of western Kentucky
On wobbly knees
With mama beside you 
To help you along 
You'll soon be growing up strong
All the long, lazy mornings 
In pastures of green 
The sun on your withers 
The wind in your mane 
Could never prepare you

For what lies ahead

8. The Pogues - Bottle of Smoke

Let's face it, if you went down the racetrack and found Shane MacGowan there... well, you'd hardly be surprised, would you? You might be surprised if he won though...

Twenty fucking five to one
Me gambling days are done
I bet on a horse called the Bottle of Smoke
And my horse won

7. Bill Monroe and his Blue Grass Boys - Molly And Tenbrooks

The real deal - from 1957, and a bluegrass CD I picked up for 50p in a charity shop.

Tenbrooks was a big bay horse 
He wore that shaggy mane
He run all around Memphis 
He beat the Memphis train

6. Richard Thompson - The Angels Took My Racehorse Away

You see, this is the problem I have with horse racing. What happens to those poor horses?
There's a racecourse in the sky
And that's where all the racing horses must go by and by
And I believe every steward, lord and groom
I believe that they're calling her home

5. Carly Simon - You're So Vain

Well, I hear you went to Saratoga
And your horse, naturally, won

Naturally. Mick, Warren, David... whoever this song was about, he was just a git. Full stop.

4. The Band - Up On Cripple Creek

Good luck had just stung me
To the race track I did go
She bet on one horse to win
And I bet on another to show
Odds were in my favor
I had him five to one
When that nag to win came around the track
Sure enough he had won

Apparently, "Up on Cripple Creek is notable as it is one of the first instances of a Hohner clavinet being played with a wah-wah pedal". Which, I'm sure you'll all agree, is... erm... something.

3. Elbow & Richard Hawley - The Fix

You see, this is why you shouldn't waste your money on gambling - it's all fixed anyway.

The fix is in
There's a nag gonna dance home at Epsom
The fix is in
Can't wait to see how it upsets 'em

(That's one great rhyme there, Guy.)

2. George Jones - The Race Is On

Only George Jones could turn use a racing commentary to chronicle heartbreak...

1. The Hold Steady - Chips Ahoy!

An outsider romps home! But it's one of my favourite Hold Steady tunes. (Great video too.)

She put $900 on the fifth horse in the sixth race
I think its name was "Chips ahoy!"
It came in six lengths ahead,
We spent the whole next week getting high

Chips Ahoy! would be a cool name for a racehorse.

Which is your Shergar?

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