Monday, 29 May 2023

Celebrity Jukebox #90: Martin Amis

Back in my 20s, when I had an abundance of free time and the world still made a vague sort of sense, I read (on average) a book a week. As well as the Stephen Kings and Dean Koontzs of my teenage years, I delved further into proper literary fiction, read the weekly book reviews in the paper, and sampled the cream of contemporary novelists. Some struck a particular chord and became longtime favourites - the late Iain Banks was top of that list - while others, like Julian Barnes, produced one or two books I thought were excellent... but others that left me cold. Martin Amis was firmly in the latter camp.

The son of respected satirist, Kingsley Amis, Martin was often described as the enfant terrible of the literary scene in the 80s and 90s. He posed for photos like the one above, clearly trying to cultivate a Bowie-esque mystique, and wrote books that mocked the worst excesses of capitalist society and the common man. There's no denying his talent as a writer, but his books were often a hard read, full of what one critic described as "the new unpleasantness". Only his light-hearted 1973 debut, The Rachel Papers, and Times Arrow, the story of a Nazi doctor told in Benjamin Button-style reverse narrative, stick in my mind as books I'd want to read again... but increasingly these days, I have less time for literary fiction that stretches my brain and just go looking for a good yarn to relax in. What would Martin Amis say to that?

"No one wants to read a difficult literary novel or deal with a prose style which reminds them how thick they are. There's a push towards egalitarianism, making writing more chummy and interactive, instead of a higher voice, and that's what I go to literature for."

I'm rather happy being a thicko, Martin. Here are some songs which mention your name... starting with one that place both you and your dad into a catalogue of literary greats... with a cough and a burp.

And lying alone, I've read 'Success' by Martin Amis
And 'The Rules of Attraction' by Bret Easton Ellis

It appears my old pal Momus read many of the same books as me in the 90s...

Next up, a satirical take on Mr. Amis from Glaswegian art rockers (they're a band, not a person) called...

The Spanish Armada were a North London indie band who came together in the late 90s, and produced some find records like this future Celeb Jukebox entry...

Their back catalogue is available as "Name Your Price" downloads in bandcamp, should you be interested. But what's this got to do with Martin Amis, you ask? Well, The Spanish Armada now go under the name The Chickpea Darlings, and here they are with a song about the year I turned 16... except, they claim, "It's not really about 1988. It's about now."

Another Martin Amis moment
An itch that someone’s got to scratch
Pouring petrol on your neighbours
Praying someone’s got a match
Sometimes it taps you on shoulder
Sometimes smacks you in the face
Feel its hot breath on your neck
It’s nineteen eighty-eight

From London to Chicago, and another band that's been in the go since the 90s, led by one Graham Smith... with today's most obvious rhymes.

Now I may not be as famous as Martin Amis
But if the shit is good, then who gives a fuck what my name is?

We end with the title track of an album that was heavily influenced by Martin Amis, particularly his 1989 novel London Fields. If you've never read one of his books, this song tells you everything you need to know... whether you like it or not.

Sunday, 28 May 2023

Snapshots #294: A Top Ten Songs You'd Find In A Toolbox

Whose image could be more appropriate for a Top Ten songs about Tools than the voice of Buzz Lightyear, American comic Tim Allen? Not because he's a colossal tool... because he was the star of "hilarious" 90s sitcom Home Improvements. Of course...


10. What you'd call three J-Los.

A trinity of Lopez...

Trini Lopez - If I Had A Hammer

9. Alecia Moore Angry!

Alecia Moore is P!nk. These guys look pretty cross.

Pink Kross - Hacksaw

8. I'm Ezra Kelt, very confused.

"I'm Ezra Kelt" is an anagram for...

Mark Eitzel - Fresh Screwdriver

7. Sounds like a subtle, non-aggressive advertising campaign.

They're using the soft sell technique.

Soft Cell - Torch

Look, you may not have a torch in your toolbox, but all the online guides recommend one. A lot of research goes into this feature, you know!

6. A Blur of Fruit Pastilles.

Fruit Pastilles are made by Rowntrees. Dave is from Blur, but was also a Labour councillor from 2017 - 2021, hence the tie.

Dave Rowntree - Tape Measure

5. Distant relatives of Phil, Joan and Lewis?

Phil Collins, Joan Collins and Lewis Collins might be distantly related to Ansell Collins... but not to Dave, whose surname is Barker.

Dave & Ansell Collins - Monkey Spanner

4. Might be hard men when they grow up...

...but they were just Soft Boys.

The Soft Boys - Do The Chisel

3. What the monks drink when there's a storm outside their house... and they're Making Plans for Ellie.

When there's a gale outside the abbey, the monks drink mead. We're making plans for Nigel and Ellie Goulding.

Abigail Mead & Nigel Goulding - Full Metal Jacket (I Wanna Be Your Drill Instructor)

2. Two men, a drum machine and (occasionally) a trumpet.

Ian and Will were the main Bunnymen, with their drum machine was called Echo... or was it? There's definitely a trumpet on this track though...

Echo & The Bunnymen - The Cutter

1. UFOs.

"An unidentified flying object, originally one of a kind reported by US pilots during the Second World War, usually described as a bright light or ball of fire" was known as a Foo Fighter.

Get tooled up for more Snapshots next Saturday...

Saturday, 27 May 2023

Saturday Snapshots #294

Welcome to a Room with a View of ten pop celebrities. Identify them all and work out what connects their songs. None of them have anything to do with Helena Bonham Carter, but here she is holding a camera anyway...

10. What you'd call three J-Los.

9. Alecia Moore Angry!

8. I'm Ezra Kelt, very confused.

7. Sounds like a subtle, non-aggressive advertising campaign.

6. A Blur of Fruit Pastilles.

5. Distant relatives of Phil, Joan and Lewis?

4. Might be hard men when they grow up.

3. What the monks drink when there's a storm outside their house... and they're Making Plans for Ellie.

2. Two men, a drum machine and (occasionally) a trumpet.

1. UFOs.

View the answers tomorrow morning...

Friday, 26 May 2023

Celebrity Jukebox #89: Tina Turner

I don't want to live in a world without Tina Turner.

I realise that's a sweeping statement, especially considering I've only mentioned her name 18 times since this blog began, which is nothing compared to many of the artists who pop up here. But when I think about the legends we've lost in this blog's lifetime - Bowie and Prince being the biggest, but then we get onto Aretha, Tom Petty, Chuck Berry, Meat Loaf, Glen Campbell, George Michael... all the rest... well, Tina's up there with the best of them. She is a legend, and growing up in the 80s, she was always there, with her huge hair, her enormous smile, her high-kicking, sassy-strutting legs, the lips that could give Jagger a run for his money, the sheer charisma and star quality that transcended the music and made her seem untouchable, immortal.

And then there's the music. So many great songs, or (particularly in the latter part of her career) songs that would have been average if given to any other performer, but Tina made them live. Of course, average is not the word for the song below, recorded when she was just 27 in 1966, but still one of the greatest performances ever committed to vinyl.

Ike had nothing to do with that one. He just did a deal with Spector to take his usual cut of the money. The record itself was considered a flop at the time. We all know the stories. They're part of the legend. And legends shouldn't ever die. They should stay alive forever.

Tina Turner's name gets dropped in hundreds of pop songs. The majority of them are rap records which occasionally make reference to her turbulent private life, but more often channel her as a metaphor for strength, resilience and power. Here's one that doesn't quite do all that, but I dug it anyway...

Beyond rap, here are a few tunes that will help maintain her legacy, starting with a typically self-effacing (!) tribute from Little Richard himself...

Ike and Tina Turner got an earthquake sound
But I'm the man from Macon and I'm gonna put 'em down!

Next up, the great Betty Davis, who places Tina in fine company...

Stevie Wonder
Tina Turner
Al Green, y'all
Ann Peebles
They were born with it
And they're gonna, aah, they're gonna leave here
With it because it's in their blood

An now here's Elton!

Walk a mile in my tennis shoes
Tina Turner gave me the highway blues
But I don't love nobody but you, honey

Speaking of Elton, here's one of his favourite bands of the 21st Century...

I'm a modern dude
I eat all that modern food
But when it comes to bump-n-grind
I'm Tina Turner, '69

Kimya Dawson certainly sees Tina as a lady who could survive anything...

He came home on acid I was holding his shotgun
I was dressed like Tina Turner in Beyond Thunderdome
He said, 'don't shoot', I said, 'I won't, I love you, you're my friend'
I handed him my wig and shot myself in the head
Then I stuffed a box of tissues in the hole in my skull
I got in my Mazda and I drove to the mall

Meanwhile, Lion Babe just wants to be Tina...

And here's someone else who stole a few pages from the Tina Turner playbook...

Come and get, get, get, it baby
For me and the whiskey’s gone
You ain’t no Tina Turner, get your Nutbush City on

Which is as good an excuse as any to play the second greatest Tina Turner tune...

Next, here's Rod, doing his jazz man thing...

I've been consulted by Hilary C
And Tina Turner had me to tea
But now I'm broken hearted
Cause I can't get started with you

Rod and Tina probably did have tea together after recording the tune below... which isn't as good as the original (because nothing could be), but it's better than you remember...

Speaking of duets, there's a strong argument for this being Bryan Adams's finest moment outside the Summer of '69...

Even punk rockers love Tina. Here's your evidence, from old school New York punks, the unfortunately monickered Queers.

Well, I saved up from mowing all those lawns
To buy Tina Turner records that she wants
Wouldn't it be neat
Wouldn't it be sweet
If she was serving me beer all day long?

From punk to reggae, they all loved Tina...

Sweeping up now, but I did like this one...

While this jury's still out on this...

Today's final song, I had in mind from the start. It's the best track from my 17th favourite record of last year, and it seems the most appropriate to play on the day we mourn another lost legend...

When my mother was 19
She'd dance to Tina
Tina Turner
And the hallway bеcome a catwalk
And she'd go to the show
No, thеy just don't
Make 'em like that no more

Thursday, 25 May 2023

Mid-Life Crisis Songs #93: Older Than Inspector Morse

As mentioned previously, I’ve been rewatching old episodes of Inspector Morse lately. John Thaw is still excellent, and I’ve discovered a fresh appreciation of Kevin Whately. It’s strange watching TV from the 80s though – the cameras are all fixed and rarely move, not even to pan across a room. The shots are long and slow and don’t cut between multiple angles in a scene. It’s made me realise just how fast-moving the direction is on modern TV and film, probably something to do with our rapidly-decreasing attention spans. That said, there’s something quite relaxing about the wonderfully languid pace of Morse, it’s perfect pre-bed TV, even if the exposition feels a little clunky in places due to the nature of Colin Dexter’s crossword-puzzle plotting. Those lengthy explanations work better in novels than they do on TV.

A horrific realisation smacked me in the face during the latest episode though. I’m midway through Series 2 at the moment, which I originally watched with my parents in 1988 when I was 16. Back then, Inspector Morse seemed a very (grumpy) old man to me… but actually, John Thaw was but a strip of a lad in the grand scheme of things. He was 46. Which means that I am currently five years older than Inspector Morse. This is more than my head can cope with.

Even harder to process is the death of Andy Rourke, aged just 59. I’ve no time for any obituaries that use Rourke’s death as a further excuse to cancel Morrissey; we should be able to respect the glory of The Smiths and all they meant to us without getting dragged into another debate on the latter day crimes of the lead singer. The thing about The Smiths is, they were far more than the sum of their parts. A chemical reaction occurred when Morrissey, Marr, Rourke and Joyce were together, elevating each band member far beyond their individual talents, creating true alchemy. Let's celebrate Rourke's life by remembering the good times... 

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