Saturday 24 February 2024

Saturday Snapshots #332


As we all grow one day closer to our Twilight years, here's a sobering thought... Robert Pattinson, the snot-nosed Emo vampire in the terminally dull Twilight films is now 37. There's no hope for the rest of us!

Still, we'll always have Snapshots to sharpen on increasingly elderly brains. Identify the ten pop peeps below, then tell me how their songs might be connected, please...


10. I think it's fair to say the clue is in the picture...

9. Grey, harbor, elephant... and small Scottish farms.

8. What a boar!

7. Not too hot, but in good company.

6. Where you'll find a blot.

5. Giant killing Robert, sounds like a kettle.

4. Get thee to a nunnery!

3. The Mild Albert Seven are a very confused group.

2. Found amid poetic enjambment.

1. Pincer movement.

Answers tomorrow!


Friday 23 February 2024

Coffee Break #1

Johnny Cash - Cup Of Coffee

While writing last week's post about my love of a good old cup of Joe, I realised that I have hundreds of tunes in my library about said beverage... any excuse for another occasional series! This one will just be a chat, like we're sitting in a coffee shop together, shooting the breeze, maybe talking about the songs they're playing in the background, maybe ignoring them and talking random shit instead. And for those of you who don't like coffee (like Martin), I'll make sure other popular beverages are available too...

Cat Stevens - Tea For The Tillerman

Is there a better one minute song than that? Seriously, if there is, I want to know about it. I mean - look at the way it builds! I can think of 8 minute album track epics that don't develop as well as that does... and then it's gone. It's perfect... although I can't help but wonder if it would have been better if it had carried on... or if the effect would have been lost with the addition of another three verses.

Hefner - The Hymn For Coffee

Louise left her scarf at the cinema during half term, so Sam and I called back there on Saturday morning to see if they had it.

"Hi," I asked the happy chappy checking e-tickets on mobile phones, "do you have a lost and found?"

"Yeah," said Stephen Patrick Morrissey's slightly less affable younger brother, "but you'll have to wait till I've checked all these people in to their films."

There weren't really any people waiting, just a couple going through the options on the automated booking screen. Eventually they finished buying their tickets and strolled over in a leisurely fashion to be checked in. 

"I suppose you better come with me then," said the gushing usher, leading us through to a dingy corridor and a door with a security code lock on it. When he opened it, we could just about make out a huge pile of coats, bags and other misplaced miscellany dumped on the floor in the corner of what looked like a cleaner's closet. "You can have a look in there, if you want."

"Is there a light?"

"No."

And so we began to rumble through the jumble. Every time we found something that might have been vaguely scarf shaped, we had to hold it out into the corridor where there was just enough light to discern vaguely recognisable details. Eventually we found the right one and went home.

"Thanks so much," I said as we left, "you're a life-saver!"

There was no reply as the gloomy flunkey shuffled back to his post.

Belle & Sebastian - Long Black Scarf

One final thing before I leave you to your day - what the hell have they done with Google Maps? 

They've changed the look so you can now see individual buildings, tiny little house and office shapes rather than just the blocked out areas of grey that used to represent buildings. It's very distracting when you're driving (and I rely on Google Maps far more than I used to, purely because I'm often on a tight schedule to get to and from work after dropping Sam off or picking him up from wraparound club). 

REM - Maps & Legends

Now I find my attention drawn not to the blue line representing my route, but to all the little shapes - is that really the shape of that house I'm driving past? Is their garden really so big? Is there a block to represent their garden shed? Does the new housing estate they're building show up, or is it still a field? If I have a crash sometime in the next few weeks, I'm telling my insurance company to call Google for compensation. 

The Front Bottoms - Maps

It makes me wonder about the future too... how much more detail can they add to these apps? Will we soon have live satellite surveillance zapped into our phones? Will we be able to see people walking down the streets, stray dogs cocking a leg at tiny lamp posts, our own car pootling down the road, as seen from above? How much of it do we actually really need? I'm not so much of a luddite that I can't admit to finding Google Maps more useful than my trusty yet tattered old Road Atlas... but where does it all end?



Thursday 22 February 2024

Cnut Songs #25: Trigger Warning!


King Cnut could not hold back the tide, and I cannot hold back society's full-throttle descent into dystopia. All I can do is watch helplessly from the sidelines, and nod my head sagely when others hold a mirror up to the madness. 

Thinkin' all about those censored sequences
Worryin' about the consequences
Waiting until I come to my senses
Better put it all in present tenses

Little triggers that you pull with your tongue
Little triggers, I don't want to be hung up, strung up
When you don't call up

Elvis Costello - Little Triggers

Louise was very excited to hear that they had remastered / re-issued the original Tomb Raider games and that she would be able to play them on Sam's Nintendo. But not before she first had to contend with the Trigger Warning...

You'll find various people online debating / objecting to / agreeing with / traumatised by the insertion of this trigger warning into Lara Croft's original adventures. As someone who's not part of any of the minorities besmirched by their representation in said game, it's probably not my place to comment... so let's look to English Literature instead for our trigger warnings...

This production includes depictions of self-harm, graphic violence and references to suicide.

That's from a theatre production of King Lear, in case you were wondering.

Talking Heads - Warning Sign

Death: 1

Domestic Abuse (Verbal): 1

Incest: 1

Suicide: 1

And that's a calculation of the potential triggers in Hamlet.

The Bandits - The Warning

Meanwhile, The Globe Theatre recently warned its audiences about a new production of Romeo & Juliet...

This production contains depictions of suicide, moments of violence, and references to drug use. It contains gunshot sound effects and the use of stage blood.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this production of Romeo and Juliet please find details below of organisations offering advice and support.

A bunch of Tory politicians were soon up in arms about that, while world famous thespian Christopher Biggins chipped in, "It’s wokeness gone mad!"

Green Day - Warning

Ralph Fiennes, Ian McKellen and Matt Smith have also taken umbrage at the trigger warnings many theatres have begun to inflict upon their audiences, though Ralph's response was a little more considered than Biggins... 

"I think the impact of theatre should be that you’re shocked and you should be disturbed. I don’t think you should be prepared for these things and when I was young, (we) never had trigger warnings for shows.”

Band of Horses - Warning Signs 

I find myself torn on this matter... and not just because if I do voice outrage at trigger warnings, I'll be joining the protest line alongside Tory MPs, Christopher Biggins and The Daily Mail. Just the very fact that those guys are in opposition makes me want to clutch trigger warnings to my bosom and welcome them with an open heart. 

The Move - The Disturbance

I teach English to young people who are suffering severe mental health problems... and yet they have to study the same texts as every other GCSE student in the country, including Macbeth (full of violence, murder, suicide and a gradual descent into madness for more than one character) and An Inspector Calls (a murder mystery which hinges around a character being driven to commit suicide by drinking bleach after she's been raped - arguably by more than one man - and castigated by society). Many of these issues are central to the experiences of some of the young people I teach... and yet, they do appear to be able to draw a line between the fiction they're studying and the reality they may have endured. Perhaps that's not always the case, and we treat every student on an individual basis depending on whether the medical professionals think they're ready to tackle such issues... but from everything I've been reading about mental health, hiding away from unpleasant issues only makes them worse. I'm not a psychiatrist and it's not my job to offer counselling... just to teach the texts. Still, it does make me wonder if trigger warnings might be doing more harm than good, shielding people from things they'd be better off confronting... if they ever want to come to terms with them.    

Robert Palmer - Disturbing Behavior

Of course, there's a difference between trigger warnings for disturbing subject matter and trigger warnings for outdated attitudes. I don't have a problem reading Huckleberry Finn or To Kill A Mockingbird with a class, both of which contain frequent use of racial epithets that were common parlance at the time they were written. It's a good way of opening up a debate about language, racism and historic prejudice. It's even more important to teach these texts nowadays, and have those discussions, than ever before. If the publishers want to add a warning that the texts contain outdated attitudes "rooted in racial and ethnic prejudices", that's fine with me. Far better that than banning or editing said texts and pretending prejudice just didn't exist. Doesn't exist. 

The Specials - Racist Friend

Having thought about it then, I completely agree with that trigger warning on Tomb Raider, as ridiculous and trivial as it might seem at first glance. Because when it comes to any kind of outdated attitude, I do believe it's important to "acknowledge its harmful impact and learn from it". And really, does that one screen affect your enjoyment of the game in any way? If it does, that probably says more about your own deep-rooted prejudices than it does about Tomb Raider. 

Jimmy Buffett - Changes In Latitudes, Changes In Attitudes

To close on a lighter note, I did have to laugh when watching Die Hard again this Christmas past, noting that despite the gratuitous violence and liberal use of foul language (though interestingly, for an 80s film, no really outdated attitudes), the biggest warning to pop up on screen before hand was that by watching this film, we'd be subjected to the image of Bruce Willis smoking a cigarette! Different times indeed...

Nick Heyward - Warning Sign

Warning: this blog contains many, many outdated attitudes. Usually involving popular music of the 80s that the cool kids have long since decided is rubbish... but I still love it anyway. That's my trigger warning, in case its needed.

History is made, not repeated
And you hide behind words that make you feel needed
And what you read in those books made you so conceited
So in order for love to be true
My dreams will have to
Become my only rules

I want a warning
I want a warning
I want something more than a warning

Wake me up on into a world outdated
And the older you get the more you seem jaded
As you search for the quotes to make it seem complicated
So in order for love to be true
Even my nightmares
Become my only rules

I want a warning
I want a warning
I want something more than a warning



Wednesday 21 February 2024

Self-Help For Cynics #23: Rock n Roll Advice Bureau

We've heard from doctors and scientists and all manner of self-help experts over the past few weeks on this feature, but as it was half term last week and I was taking it easy (if only!), I figured we might listen to a couple of experts from the world of rock n roll for a change.

Let's start with a recommendation from Charity Chic, on whose advice I tracked down a copy of Steve Forbert's 1992 album, The American In Me. (I think it was CC who pointed me in Steve's direction, but I could be misremembering.) I was only really familiar with Mr. Forbert from his 1979 US hit Romeo's Tune, back when he was still a whipper-snapper, so it was nice to hear some of his later work. Perhaps his biggest claim to fame is that he played the part of Cyndi Lauper's boyfriend in the video to Girls Just Wanna Have Fun. That's him, turning up at the end, holding a bunch of flowers and trying to make himself heard over the racket...

Cyndi Lauper - Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

Here's a song of Steve's that certainly struck a chord with me...

You've got a lotta detail in your life, of late you find
Hey, now that you got kids, well, things loom larger in your mind
You make your best decisions in the time that you're allowed
And still get caught at Christmas in that final countdown crowd


It's always problems everywhere, you're juggling everyone
You do your best each day but when the sun goes down it's done, it's done
And then what slips through the cracks is just gonna go ahead and fall
Don't let it keep you up nights when you know my friend
You cannot win 'em all, oh no


Exterminator, lawyer, doctor, daycare, dental bill
Hey, now that you're essential, have you made yourself a will?
You gotta have insurance just to drive your car to work
And wind up down in court with some bad actor, neck brace jerk


It's always problems everywhere, you're juggling everyone
You do your best each day but when the sun goes down it's done, it's done
And then what slips through the cracks is just gonna go ahead and fall
Don't let it keep you up nights when you know my friend
You cannot win 'em all, oh no


Can't no one stop that airport that they're building over there?
Those planes won't hardly clear your trees and noise will fill the air
So set your sights on silent nights and greener pastures still
So much for your retirement dreams on Oakview Pleasant Hill


It's always problems everywhere, you're juggling everyone
You do your best each day but when the sun goes down it's done, it's done
And then what slips through the cracks is just gonna go ahead and fall
Don't let it keep you up nights when you know my friend
You cannot win 'em all, oh no, oh no


Wise words, mate, to quote famous DJ Dave Nice.


Frank Turner's got a new record out this year. After a few middling efforts, his previous album, FTHC, was one of the best he's yet delivered. It went to Number One in the album charts and appears to have given him a renewed sense of what's it all about. Here's some typically Turner-esque advice from the lead single of the new offering...

Some people are just going to hate you,
No matter what you do.
So don't waste your time trying to change their minds –
Just be a better you.
It took me years to learn this
(More than I’d like to admit)
But through my ups and downs I figured one thing out:
Don’t take anyone’s shit

I’m still standing up and there’s nothing you can do.
I’m still standing up.

Some people will search for your weaknesses –
They’ll go to any lengths.
But if you find them first you can take that hurt
And turn it into a strength.
And you’ll wonder why they’re so unkind,
And how they sleep at night,
But that simple fact means you’re better than that –
I think you’re going to be alright.

So which path to choose?
The one less travelled or the one more used?
All the sticks and stones, all the broken bones,
It’s not who you are it’s the things you choose to do.


Finally, my favourite band of the 21st Century are back, although I'm clearly the only person in the world who feels that way. Jeff Tweedy thinks there's a lot to be said for liking bands that nobody else likes (or have even heard of), but I still wish The Indelicates could get more than 79 views on the tube of you for a song as good as this. Also, in terms of defining post-20th Century middle-aged angst, I think "We're living in the wreckage of the bombs that never dropped" is as fine a chorus as you're going to hear this year. 

I'm not sure Simon Indelicate has any self help advice to offer us, but it's good to know I'm not alone in feeling like this... 

Well, I saw this thing that my nephew posted on Facebook
It said: "Scientists prove your life flashes before your eyes before you die"
I've hardly slept since I saw that on Facebook
I don't think I can stand the disappointment a second time



Tuesday 20 February 2024

Namesakes #73: The Knack


Have you got The Knack? 

I can't say I've ever had it... but these guys had it in spades...

THE KNACK #1

British beat group originally known as The Londoners (guess where they were from?) who kicked off their career in 1965 with the song below. Apparently they "spent most of their time in Germany". So much for that London. 

Guitarist Paul Gurvitz later formed The Gun with his brother, "Classic" Adrian.

THE KNACK #2

Meanwhile, over on the other side of the pond, 1965 also saw a bunch of Hollywood High school students band together as The InMates, before changing their name to The Knack in time to release the song below (and a few others) in '67 and '68. 

Lead singer Michael Chain would also enjoy the thrills of a solo career, including a country song called Let's Go Chase Some Women.

THE KNACK #3

Dutch funk-rockers from 1975 consisting of Sjaak Witjes, Piet van Tongeren, Jacky van Tongeren, Ronnie Meyjes, and Dennis Whitbread. One of those gentlemen doesn't sound particularly Dutch.

This, however, sounds like a top tune...

THE KNACK #4

You'll all be familiar with these guys, the LA band who brought us the worldwide power-pop hit My Sharona... but you may be unfamiliar with the way they were treated by the Evil Cognoscenti that tries to dictate what it's cool to like and what we should all steer clear of. What's amusing (or frustrating) with hindsight is the list of crimes The Knack were castigated for in the early 80s, including...

1) Having an album cover that copied / referenced an early Beatles album cover. (I'd be surprised if you don't have a record which does similar in your collection.)

2) Having a "retro" sound that took cues from the British Invasion bands of the 60s. (How many bands have built successful careers on that since then?)

3) "The object of some of the Knack's songs were teenaged girls..." (Erm... hello? Pop music? Anyone?)

4) Best of all, critics claimed "the band was imposing inadequate memories of the 1960s on those who didn't know better."

Oh, well, in that case... 

No wonder the purists wanted to "Knuke The Knack". (See what they did there?)

Jesus.

Sometimes I just want to stop writing about music altogether when I come up against such narrow-minded, elitist bullshit...


Which ones make you want to knick knack paddy whack, give the dog a bone? And which ones are ready for the knacker's yard?


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