Saturday 30 September 2017

Saturday Snapshots #2

Here we go again. No prizes for identifying the photographer above.

Let's start this week with an easy one...

10. This reluctant replacement is more suited to a crown than a flat cap...

9. MK, darling, you'll find Sidekick Psycho hard to accept when he takes a stroll with The Bangles.

(That must surely be one of the most torturous cryptic clues ever written. Extra marks if you can explain your working out.)

8. Message received: he sweeps up for 2 hours just to purchase a poky place.

7. Don't pay the ferryman: being seen coming out of one of their gigs takes the biscuit.

6. Look on the bright side and thiscrowd will always let you down.

5. If you're still around in another 500 years, zese two will be waiting for you.

4. Superman's mum knows: the Duke & Big Lips never did it this good.

3. They have an answer for the Old King... but it may be an illusion.

2. Bananarama had been listening to her, like $100 Benjamin.

1. In pop's parallel universe...they were desperately seeking a home.

Answers as soon as you've guessed them all.

Thursday 28 September 2017

My Top Ten Alligator Songs

An album with an alligator on the cover.

A much better album without an alligator on the cover.

As promised, here is the inevitable follow-up to My Top Ten Crocodile Songs... in a snap!

Be warned... though there were lots of alligator songs in my tomb of tunes... there weren't very many great ones.

10. Bill Haley & The Comets - See You Later, Alligator

Buddy Holly. Chuck Berry. Gene Vincent. Eddie Cochran. Fats Domino. The Everly Brothers. Jerry Lee Lewis. Etc. Etc. Etc.

I love them all.

Never quite got Bill Haley though. He never felt rock 'n' roll enough for me. (Ironic, considering a lot of people call his biggest hit 'the first rock 'n' roll record'.)

9. REM - Alligator Aviator Autopilot Antimatter

If you ever wondered why REM called it a day, this video offers ample evidence. From their final album, for good reason.

As for alligator alliteration, Carole King does a better job on Alligators All Around.

8. Foxboro Hot Tubs - Alligator

What Green Day did on their day off. Pretended to be The Who. 

7. Paul Gilbert - Alligator Farm

This really rocks. You might enjoy it. (So I won't tell you it's by the bloke who used to be in Mr. Big.)

6. Curve - Alligators Getting Up

Sounds a bit like a rejected Bond theme. Maybe Curve were thinking of remaking Live & Let Die? (i.e. The One With Alligators. Or Crocodiles. Don't be pedantic.)

5. Chely Wright - Alligator Purse

The alligator version of Crocodile Shoes. Only better.

4. Screamin' Jay Hawkins - Alligator Wine

Genuinely scary.

3. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers - Gator On The Lawn

Tom does his best Elvis shuffle because every other day he's got a gator on his lawn.

2. ZZ Top - Alley-Gator

Sounds like most  other ZZ Top songs you've ever heard, only twice as fuzzy. Therefore it's amazing. (At least in the context of this list.)

1. Cameo - Alligator Woman / Lionel Ritchie - Night Train (Smooth Alligator)

Look, I know this particular Top Ten hasn't been my finest moment. There are some top notch artists on this countdown, but they've all done far better things in their careers, and none of the songs featured today can hold a candle to last week's Crocodile post. But I promised an alligator follow-up, and so I felt contractually obliged. Hence this two-fer-one Number One of 80s soul shudders which I'm sure will make most of you run for the hills, but I actually think are quite fun in a very much of-their-time sort of way.

Look, it was either this or Paul McCartney and Mark Ronson. Believe me, you got off lightly.

Maybe I missed the lost classic alligator song that's lurking in your swamp. If so, do tell...

Wednesday 27 September 2017

My Top ∞ Radio Songs #19: Most People Are DJs

I'd not been working in radio long before people started to mimic my voice. This is not unusual in a radio station: you've not really arrived until half the staff are doing an impression of you. In fact, when I think back on a lot of the people I worked with in my early radio days, the immediate memory that comes to mind is their voice. Or rather, their impersonated voice. Everybody impersonates everybody else in radio (or at least in the station I worked in), and most of the impersonations are not very realistic: just exaggerrated mockeries based on a few distinct vocal traits.

"Myyyy impersonayted voice sound-ed lyyyke this. Kind of a bit sloooow and hevvy on the ack-sent, particularly noticeable when pronouncing words like caaaaaaaaaaar. That is, the thing you drive."

I do have a Yorkshire accent, but as with most accents, there are subcultures. Mine is from a rather weird part of Huddersfield called Sla-wit. That's how the locals pronounce it. Sla-wit or Slou-wet. It's actually spelled Slaithwaite, but even poshoes don't call it Slaythwaite. If you want to be posh, you call it Slaff-wait. If you dare say Slaythwaite, that's when the pitchforks and torches come out.

Being the last-but-one stop before Lancashire, the Yorkshire accent in Slawit is pretty broad, and has lots of harsh Anglo-saxon vowel sounds, most notably the "arrrrr"-sounding A. (My dad is from the next village over: truly the end of the line, Marsden. You don't get much broader.)

These days, we don't really bat an earlid when we hear a regional accent on radio or TV, but in the land before time that was the late 1980s, there was still a belief among many that people on the radio should talk proper, BBC English... or at least sound like Gary Davis. Most local DJs therefore had one leg in received pronunciation and the other in trans-Atlantic twang. It was cleeee-ar I wuz nev-ver go-inggg to gettt a jobbb soundeeeng lyke a Yorkshire twatttt.

Luckily, my mum had the answer.

Enter: Mrs. Kay.

19. The Hold Steady - Most People Are DJs

Most people want to be DJs. I'm convinced of that. Who wouldn't want to sit in a studio spinning records three hours a day... then call it a day? The dream job, right? All you need is the voice and the patter. I had one of them.
I was a teenage ice machine. I kept it cool in coolers. I drank until I dreamed.
When I dreamed I always dreamed about the scene.
All these kids look like little lambs looking up at me.
I was a twin cities trash bin. I did everything they'd give me.
I'd jam it in my system. she had me cornered in the kitchen.
I said I'll do anything but listen to some weird talking chick
Who just can't understand that we're hot soft spots on a hard rock planet.
Baby take off your beret.
Everyone's a critic and most people are DJs.

Tuesday 26 September 2017

My Top Ten Greta Garbo Songs

I can't claim to be the world's biggest expert on Greta Garbo. In fact, compared to the actors and actresses featured so far in this series, I know virtually nothing about her, and would struggle to name more than a couple of her movies. I do, however, understand how she might vant to be alone...

Songwriters, though, they just won't leave her alone at all...

(Special mention to The Pogues - Garbo (aka In & Out), which is a pretty cool tune but isn't about Greta at all, it's slang for garbage.)

10. Stevie Nicks - Garbo

You can see how Stevie Nicks would be inspired by Garbo. Crazy runs deep.
I love to waltz with a man in a dark linen suit
All alone -- at a party with someone I knew
From a time gone by -- turned to stone
Speaking of insanity, see also Falco - Garbo. No, really. You owe it to yourself.

And, in a similar vein...

9. Van Morrison - Just Like Greta
Well, I guess I'm going A.W.O.L.
Disconnect my telephone
Just like Greta Garbo
I want to be alone
Grumpy old git.

8. Patty Larkin - Rearview Mirror

 Like Suzanne Vega? Give Patty Larkin a try...
I trusted you
I trusted you
Poured my heart out like a friend
But Great Garbo found out in the end
Who's who
7. Neil Finn - Recluse

I guess all those years being in a Crowded House made Neil long for a little solitude too...
JD Salinger lived long ago and far away
Greta Garbo parked her car and walked home from a glamorous party
I just want to be alone
6. David Bowie - Quicksand
I'm the twisted name on Garbo's eyes
Living proof of Churchill's lies, I'm destiny
I'm torn between the light and dark
Where others see their targets, divine symmetry
Should I kiss the viper's fang?
Nope. Not a clue what all that's about. 

5. Nanci Griffith - Late Night, Grand Hotel

But this is sheer class...
And maybe you were thinkin'
That you thought you knew me well
But, no one ever knows the heart of anyone else
I feel like Garbo in this late night grande hotel
Cause living alone is all I've ever done well
4. Mansun - I Can Only Disappoint U

One of my favourite Mansun songs. The title is my mantra.
I traveled from Dublin, you said you'd change the world
You sing like Sinatra, always
You pulled 'em for miles now, like Garbo in Berlin
You played 'em for zeroes, just like always
Tonight, some bitch is hassling me
And tonight, it feels so good feeling cheap
I can only disappoint you cause I always let you down
3. Bryan Ferry - These Foolish Things

Normally I'd go for Frank over Bryan any day, but I have a special fondness for the Ferryman's version of this Cole Porter clssic.
The smile of Garbo and the scent of roses
The waiters whistling as the last bar closes
The song that Crosby sings
These foolish things remind me of you
Speaking of Cole Porter, let's not forget You're The Top...
You're the purple light
Of a summer night in Spain,
You're the National Gallery
You're Garbo's salary,
You're cellophane. 
Imagine living in a time where cellophane is a technological marvel. 

2. Manfred Mann - My Name Is Jack
...and I live in the back of the Greta Garbo Home for Wayward Boys and Girls.
There actually was such a place, apparently, a hostel in San Francisco in the 60s.

1. Lloyd Cole - Perfect Skin

Some of the best lyrics of the 80s...
At the age of ten she looked like Greta Garbo
And I loved her then, but how was she to know that
When she smiles my way
My eyes go out in vain
She's got perfect skin

And I could easily have gone another ten. But which one do you want to be alone with?

Monday 25 September 2017

The Neverending Top Ten #3: White No Sugar

"Somehow my child knows the chorus to this song and is singing it to himself..."

This was Louise's reaction (via facebook) to the boy's latest favourite. See, I'm not just introducing him to the classics everyone knows... but the classics everyone has forgotten (or never knew in the first place) as well.

Fortunately, Mummy found herself digging Clint Boon's White No Sugar when she heard it, so I think I got away with this one. She even made the trenchant observation that perhaps the Arctic Monkeys listened to Clint Boon a bit while they were growing up. (Trivial claim to fame: Alex Turner studied music at the college where I teach... quite a bit before I got there though.)

3. The Clint Boon Experience - White No Sugar

White No Sugar is from 1999, when the internet was a new and exciting phenomenon. "This is definitely a new revolution!" says Clint. How right he was. My boy, like all his generation, will take the internet for granted. Just as I take television for granted and can't believe that when my parents were kids, all they had was the radio. Who knows what else he'll take for granted by the time he's my age...

Mr Boon: play that tune!

Sunday 24 September 2017

Saturday Snapshots #1 - The Answers

Well, that didn't take long, did it?

As you've guessed all the answers, I figured I might as well play the tunes now rather than wait another week...

Points were awarded in the comments. Totting them up here would take too long, but you're all winners in my book. I might have to make it a little harder next week...

10. Coke really is addictive.

The Real Thing - Can't Get By Without You

Pretty self explanatory that one, I hope.

9. These guys certainly take it... for old blue eyes.

Cake - Frank Sinatra

Well, they certainly take the cake.

8. A could-be tennis sister complains that her man's no good with his hands...

Lucinda Williams - Come On

Venus, she ain't. Lucinda explains all in the song.

7. Two guys who should have been MUCH bigger update Turkey.

They Might Be Giants - Istanbul (Not Constantinople)

That's nobody's business but the Turks.

6. Partners who don't like social gatherings... twice.

The Associates - Party Fears Two

Within the hour, they'll smash another cup.

5. Set firm in their Supreme admiration...

Definitely the hardest one this week. Well done to The Swede & Alyson for tag-teaming the win.

The Concretes - Diana Ross

4. Always shelling out, never picking up rice in the church.

Yes, I did change the clue. Originally I'd put "always winning the race", until I remembered that it was the tortoise that won the race, not the turtle. D'oh. The new clue wasn't as good, I admit. As for picking up rice in the church - well, Eleanor Rigby did that. But this was definitely a different girl. She didn't even spell her name the same way.

The Turtles - Elenore

3. Here are the headlines: We Sued Ghostbusters.

Huey Lewis & The News - I Want A New Drug

Huey sued Ray Parker Jr. when he heard the Ghostbusters theme. There are some similarities. They settled out of court and signed a condfidentiality agreement to never speak about it in public. A few years later, Huey did an interview with VH1 in which he mentioned it. Ray sued him back.

2. After the cremation, there was hardly anything left.

Ash - Burn, Baby, Burn

Who knew there were so many Ash songs that would have fit this clue. And I thought I'd chosen the most obvious!

1. A bunch of absolute good-for-nothings who hate sleeping policemen.

What did Edwin Starr say War was good for?

Yes, I boo-booed with the inclusion of Eric Burdon, who it seems wasn't in War when they recorded this track. But this was the best photo of the band I could find on t'internet.

War - Low Rider

More snapshots next Saturday.

Saturday 23 September 2017

Saturday Snapshots #1

A brand new interactive feature. Let's give it a try, anyway.

I post ten clues to ten songs, both a band photo and a cryptic hint, you have to try to identify them. Artist & title. No connection between the songs other than that they're all in my record collection and I haven't found a way to shoehorn them into any other Top Ten yet.

10. Coke really is addictive.

9. These guys certainly take it... for old blue eyes.

8. A could-be tennis sister complains that her man's no good with his hands...

7. Two guys who should have been MUCH bigger update Turkey.

6. Partners who don't like social gatherings... twice.

5. Set firm in their Supreme admiration...

4. Always shelling out, never picking up rice in the church.

3. Here are the headlines: We Sued Ghostbusters.

2. After the cremation, there was hardly anything left.

1. A bunch of absolute good-for-nothings who hate sleeping policemen.

Answers - and top tunes - next Saturday. 

Thursday 21 September 2017

My Top Ten Crocodile Songs

A bunch of crazy scientists recently named the giant prehistoric crocodile pictured above after Lemmy. "The nastiest sea creature to ever inhabit the earth", fossils of which were recently discovered, will now forever be known as the Lemmysuchus.

Here's ten more crocodile rockers...some of them very, very scary indeed.

Special mentions to The Suede Crocodiles & Crocodile Harris. (Thanks to Jez for that last one.)

10. Jimmy Nail - Crocodile Shoes

OK, come on then: whose bright idea was it to let Jimmy Nail be a pop star? I mean, Jimmy Nail! And let's not forget, Jimmy Nail didn't just get into the charts: he got to Number One! That said, I will go down fighting to defend Ain't No Doubt (co-written by the aforementioned Charlie 'Pilot of the Airwaves' Dore... see, I don't just throw this blog together, etc. etc.).

Crocodile Shoes though? No, it's rubbish.

Still, the video does feature pantomine horses, and Jimmy's Crocodile Shoes literally cry too... so there's that.

9. This Town Needs Guns - Crocodile

I'm not sure I understand Maths rock. (Attention: there is an s on Maths. I'm not calling it Math Rock, because that would be stupid.) I'm an English teacher.

This is from a record called Animals, on which all the tracks are named after different... erm, Animals. Track 1 is Chinchilla. Track 7 is Elk. Track 3 is Lemur. Track 9 is Gibbon. Track 5 is Quetzal. (No, me neither.) How very 6th Form.

Still... slightly better than Jimmy Nail.

8. The Hollies - Crocodile Woman (She Bites)

Not the Hollies' finest hour, but a hell of a lot better than Wiggle That Wotsit. That's scarier than any crocodile.(Don't click the link. You will be scarred for life.)

7. XTC - Crocodile

 A three scene play from Andy Partridge... I think the croc is a metaphor for jealousy.

6. Darren Hayman & The Secondary Modern - The Crocodile

A delicate little story about a smiling crocodile by the bloke from Hefner. Quite lovely.

5. Janis Ian - Crocodile Song

Great lyrics, great life performance from Janis. She's still got it.

4. T-Rex - Warlord of the Royal Crocodiles

Mad. And it's almost 40 years since he died too. I was going to do a Top Ten Marc Bolan Songs in tribute, but The Swede already did a far better job of that than I ever could
3. Echo & The Bunnymen - Crocodiles

Jimmy Nail will be pleased to hear that the Bunnymen far prefer crocodile shoes to ones made out of alligator. If there's one thing I understand about the lyrics to this song, it's that. 

2. Martin Stephenson & The Daintees - Crocodile Cryer

A song about false friends stabbing you in the back, and it's not even by Morrissey. Can't understand how Martin Stephenson wasn't a bigger star. He even name-drops our Number One artist in he lyrics...
In a house full of fairday fakes 
Where the next-day neighbour makes the cakes 
With Elton John records playing loud upstairs 
It could be just the time to strike 
I'll be casual and ask about 
A will that could be mine throughout 
An opportunist you might think but I have to earn my brass
1. Elton John - Crocodile Rock

Do you remember when rock was young? Do you remember when Elton was young? Do you remember when he was good? Really good? So good, he shamelessly filched bits of Chris Montez's Let's Dance and Pat Boone's Speedy Gonzales to cobble together of the best throwaway pop songs / rock 'n' roll throwbacks of the 70s.
Oh Lawdy, mama, those Friday nights
When Suzie wore her dresses tight
And the Crocodile Rocking was out of sight
This just in from The Department of Making You Feel Old: Elton John doing a tribute song to the early days of rock 'n' roll in 1972 is the equivalent of me doing a tribute to the second Coldplay album today. Not that I'm comparing the early days of rock to A Rush Of Blood To The Head since it's clear that one of those changed life as we know it on the planet earth and the other one proved Chris Martin couldn't even write a better song than Yellow, but still... time, y'know. Time.

Which one would you snap up?

(By the way, Alligator fans, don't feel left out... your time will come.)

Tuesday 19 September 2017

My Top 90 Mid-Life Crisis Songs #4: I Wasn't A Teenage Anarchist

Apparently, when you hit your teenage years, you're supposed to rebel against your parents and the establishment, severing the ties that bind you to your childhood and allowing you to fly free and conquer the world as you hit adulthood.

I reckon I got that all ass-backwards. As I've hinted at in previous posts, I didn't so much rebel against my parents and their generation as rebel against my peers. Every time they told me I should be listening to The Smiths, I cranked up The Beach Boys. When Frankie said Relax, in my house he said Regrets... I've had a few, but then again, too few to mention. When 17 year old Aisling Reynolds (and her older sister Linda) told the world they'd rather Jack... 17 year old Rol screamed back that he'd much rather Fleetwood Mac, thank you very much. (I changed my mind completely on The Smiths and partly on Frankie, but I still find that Reynolds Girls song once of the most offensive things ever committed to vinyl).

It wasn't just in music that I rebelled against being a teenager. I refused to touch a drop of alcohol... until I was in my early 20s, and the slope was very slippery after that. I never smoked behind the bike sheds. (I would have gone with a girl behind the bike sheds, but what girl would want a teenage pensioner?) Drugs? Yeah, right. Zammo never had to warn me off those. By the time I reached Sixth Form, my friends were calling me Victor Meldrew. My friends! And part of me relished it.

Looking back, I must have seemed a complete dick to a lot of my peers. And I probably was. But I had one thing in common with a lot of teenagers: I wanted to be different. Not from my parents though, because they were different from everybody else's parents anyway. They were ten, fifteen years older than most other mums and dads I met. They came from the Land Before Rock 'n' Roll. I never wanted to disrespect them or hurt them in any way, and though we clashed occasionally, mostly my home life was harmonious. But this restricted me when I hit my 20s and caused me to make all kinds of stupid mistakes then that I should have made when I was 16. It would probably have been better for me if I had been a teenage anarchist...

4. Against Me! - I Was A Teenage Anarchist

Against Me! are a very interesting band, not least because their lead singer changed genders halfway through their career. A former colleague of mind did the same and I admire her so much for the bravery of that decision. Imagine living most of your life in the wrong body, and then having the guts to do something about it. Makes my own midlife crisis pale into insignificance...

Monday 18 September 2017

My Top ∞ Radio Songs #18: The Pilot Goes To Hospital

While I studied for my A Levels during the week, I spent my Saturday mornings in a radio studio. Not actually the on air studio though, just the Master Control Room... which makes it sound a whole lot fancier and more important than it actually was. The only time I got to go into the on air studio was to take in the coffee, and very occasionally you'd hear my voice on air if the jock deigned to throw a question my way... but mostly that was a muffled, off-mic thing. Rarely did he throw open the guest mic and let me speak clearly. On the rare occasion he did that... well, it made me want a whole lot more. I wanted to get behind that desk myself. Have complete control of the mic fader. Feel my lips just a whisker from the pop shield... that sacred totem that was flecked with the spittle of every jock who'd ever sat in that glorious, all-powerful presenter's chair (apart from the hygeine-conscious ones who brought in their own pop shields and swapped them over before and after their shows).

That wasn't going to happen without a little on-air experience of my own though, and it soon became clear I wasn't going to get that at the station. The old quandary that besets most teenage job-applicants: they want experience first, but how do you get it?

The answer was Hospital Radio. Most of the jocks I spoke too said that was how they'd got started, and they encouraged me to give it a go. It wasn't what I expected.

For a start, it wasn't even in the hospital. It was a few streets away, in the basement of a grand old townhouse that had been converted into flats. And as shabby as the radio station I already worked at looked, this made that look like Radio One. But every Thursday evening, I'd dutifully trudge down there and serve out my time.

The staff weren't at all what I expected either. No wannabe radio stars: at least not on the night I worked. There was a retired schoolteacher who liked the sound of his own voice and a middle-aged mother (she was in her 30s, but that was middle-aged to me back then) who obviously just needed a night out of the house. Then there were the ones who never even wanted to get in front of the mic (I know!); happy enough just to sit in the operating room (an even more down-market MCR) or prowl the wards asking for requests. This was way before the days of texts and email, remember. (I promised I'd get involved with that side of the job  when I joined hospital radio. But I managed to never once set foot inside the hospital. Kept well away from all the sick people.)

It was here that I honed my craft. Not presenting, per se, but co-presenting. I was pretty good at that. Giving the sarky comeback, setting up the gags and paying them off. Throughout my short-lived on-air career, I was always much better if I had someone to banter with. (Like a cut-rate Mark Radcliffe, without half the wit.) I'm not sure I ever cracked the intimate conversation with the listener, but then the opportunities for flying solo were always pretty limited. (At Christmas, I'd volunteer for the shifts no one else wanted. New Year's Day, I was down there at 8am to do my own thing and play my own thing to absolutely no one. Even in hospital, people had a lay in on January 1st.)

I enjoyed it though. There was no pressure on hospital radio. You just turned up, played Jim Reeves 'I Love You Because' and probably something by The Brighouse & Rastrick Brass Band (because they were always requested), then maybe made up a couple of your own requests that allowed you to play some Meat Loaf. The record library wasn't anywhere near as extensive as the one at my other job: far more Foster & Allen than Foreigner & Abba, but I brought my own records in and snuck them on air whenever I could. This was the late 80s though, and regularly readers of this blog will be well-acquainted with my late-80s tastes. No one at hospital radio had even heard of The Smiths.

Around this time, I put away my childish things. Quit the brass band which had been my only social life for a good four or five years and gave up the piano lessons I'd been taking (unsuccessfully) since I was in primary school. I didn't have time for any of that if I was going to be a radio star. There would, however, be one other lesson I'd soon find myself desperately in need of...


18. Charlie Dore - Pilot of the Airwaves

Here's another radio song I owe to Uncle Tel. Soon after the story above took place, this was to become the last ever song played on Radio Caroline. But I remember it from the first time round. A huge hit in the States, Canada and even Australia... though it only got to #66 in the UK singles chart of 1979. Singer-songwriter Charlie Dore was British though, and although this was her only solo hit, she did go on to pen a number of other successful tunes... one of which I'll be mentioning later in the week. You may be surprised.

Saturday 16 September 2017

My Top Ten Molly Songs (Tribute To Molly The Cat Part 2)

Molly getting ready to go on holiday with us.

In the inevitable follow-up to last night's post: ten Molly songs.

The main reason I write, the main reason I've always written... stories, comics, novels, plays, blogs, anything... is to try to make sense of it all. Writing these posts has been cathartic. Thanks for all the kind words.

10. The Kingston Trio - Run, Molly, Run / Molly Dee

I was fortunate to stumble across a box set compilation of early Kingston Trio albums in a charity shop a year or so back. Here's two for the price of one from that collection.

9. The dB's - Molly Says

Top mid-80s powerpop racket. Great lyrics.
She could stand at the top of the world
And still complain that she could not see
She could stand in a deep dark hole
And still look down on me
8. Kings of Leon - Molly's Chambers

On paper, the Kings of Leon should exactly the kind of band I dote over. I just never quite got it, though. Still, this is undoubtedly one of their best.

7. Strawberry Story - Molly Ringwald

I'm sure one of my fellow bloggers will be able to tell you a lot more about Strawberry Story than I can (Brian? JC?) but any band that namechecks 80s teen heroine Molly Ringwald scores points in my record collection.

6. Travis - Only Molly Knows

One for Martin, I'm sure.

Arguably the best song on The Man Who was the hidden track, Blue Flashing Light. Turns out that on the US edition of the CD, there were three hidden tracks. None of them particularly shabby.

5. The People The Poet - Molly Drove Me Away

Contemporary Welsh rock that sounds like it hails from New Jersey? Yes, please.

4. Kenny Rogers & The First Edition - Molly

Epic country tragedy. The internet claims this was written by Alex Harvey... but surely that must be some other Alex Harvey?

3. The Vaselines / Nirvana - Molly's Lips

The original is an off-kilter classic, obviously. No wonder it was one of Kurt's favourite records.

2. Emily Kinney - Molly

So much more interesting as a singer-songwriter than she ever got to be on The Walking Dead.

1. Little Richard - Good Golly, Miss Molly

One of the most influential recordings in the history of rock 'n' roll? Check. Seems like a fine place to end this tribute to a unique feline.

What's your favourite Molly song? (Points will be deducted for suggesting Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Dah because it's bloody annoying. If you're one of those people who doesn't read to the end of the post, don't say you weren't warned.)

Friday 15 September 2017

My Top Ten Tribute To Molly Part 1: Cat Songs

We lost an important member of our family yesterday. Molly the cat... silky ears, twitching whiskers, inquisitive meow (not to mention a full-on demanding MOWRRRR at meal times).

I loved how you thought you were a human, not a silly cat. How you'd talk back. How you'd show workmen round the house and offer your opinion. How you'd never quite settle down, and if you did, that's when the claws would come out, milking us for warmth. How sometimes you'd sit with your tongue peeping out. How loud you could purr.

There are so many Molly stories I could tell. You were such an incredible character. The time you reached out through a barely open bedroom window and pulled in a bird. (That jingling collar we had to buy you must have sounded like the Jaws theme to the local avian gangs.) The way you just had to find a carpeted area to puke furballs onto: a nice, easy to clean kitchen floor was never good enough. The way you made me feel welcome in Louise's house the first time I visited. You were one of the friendliest cats I ever met. It was amusing watching neighbours and schoolkids stop outside the house to give you a stroke on their way home.

Many more stories, but I'm filling up at the typewriter so... another time, Mols.

I'll especially miss going out last thing at night to find you (usually scavenging round the back door of the nearby hotel, where you'd managed to sweet-talk the kitchen staff into feeding you scraps), then carrying you home on my shoulder, purring, claws catching in my jumper.

10.  Sonic Youth - Purr
I love you baby yeah, you're superfine
A-claw me down, too
A purring, whirring, fuzzy like today
Switching sunlight
I chase you kitten, catch you every time
Funny how it flies
9. Marc & The Mambas - Boss Cat

Molly was certainly the boss round here...
Mee-ow, oh wow!
Mee-ow, oh wow!
Mee-ow, oh wow!
Mee-ow, oh wow!
8. Paul Heaton - Life Of A Cat

Oh, for the life of a cat!

7. Squeeze - Cool For Cats

Not really about cats at all, but Molly was definitely too cool for school.

6. Ray Charles & Hank Williams Jr. - Two Old Cats Like Us
We've been down a whole lot of alleys
Shook a whole lot of cans
There ain't too much about prowlin' or howlin'
That we don't understand

Had a few doors slammed on our tails
We've been kicked and cussed
But everything's cool for two old cats like us
5. Colin Clary - Meow Meow

Excuse the early Christmas song, but this one always makes me think of Molly. This song's for life, not just for Christmas.

4. Billy Joel - Cat

Very early, very jazzy Billy. But so many of the lyrics are spot on...
She walks with a grace of a lion
Her eyes are the color of a shade gleam
She takes her pleasure in the nighttime
Absolutely unconcerned about anything

She’s a cat and she's as free as the wind
You never know what kind of trouble she’s in
She’s a cat
Rest assured that she doesn’t need you
3. Elvis Costello - Pads, Paws & Claws

Maybe Elvis's song isn't about an actual cat, but Molly was certainly a feline tormenter and she definitely did the pads, paws and claws routine.

2. Prefab Sprout - Farmyard Cat

But you can be the feline elite and still go scrounging scraps down a dead end street, Paddy.

I'll be back to talk in more detail about this song some other time.

1. The Cure - Love Cats
So wonderfully

My Top Ten Molly Songs will follow very soon, obviously...

Thursday 14 September 2017

The Neverending Top Ten #2: Drive My Car

A nerdish obsession with pop trivia has gripped my boy in recent months, much to his mother's despair. I've tried to tell her it's just a phase. 6 months ago, he was obsessed with the clock. The most exciting thing in his world was watching the numbers on a digital clock turn back to zero zero at the top of the hour. Right now this has been replaced by an obsession with pop songs and their singers. There are three questions that are asked of every track I play him in the car...

"What's this song called?"

"Who is the singer / band?"

"What else do they sing?"

His memory for this information is astounding: far better than mine. I'm thinking of entering him for Pop Master.

"This is 1999 by Prince. He also sings Raspberry Beret and I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man. What else?"

As I say, the other half despairs. She's worried he will be picked on for being a trivia-obsessed geek. "That never did his father any harm," I tell her. Something in her expression says she disputes that.

2. The Beatles - Drive My Car

One of the first songs he loved. I knew he would, that's why I chose it as the opening track on the first compilation CD I made for him. His favourite toys are cars, his favourite movies are Cars... he already knows more about cars than his dad ever has.

Plus, when it comes to pop, you've got to start with The Beatles, haven't you? I may have grown a little jaded with them over the years, but in terms of pure pop... there's no contest. Pretty much everything else comes from this...

Beep beep - beep beep - yeah!

Wednesday 13 September 2017

The Top Ten Records I Bought Because I Fancied The Singer #2: Houston, We Have A Problem...

I don't think this one's too embarrassing. I was 15 when I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me) was released and I still think it's a great pop song, thirty years later. Yes, it does suffer from tinny 80s production, but it bounces along joyfully and gives voice to the unspoken truth of every 15 year old, boy or girl, in its title (brackets all important). You listen to lyrics like those, sung by a pretty girl just a few years older than you... and she might as well be singing to you. It's a fun pop song made heartbreaking when you're stood up against the wall at the school disco, trying your best to look cool and not bothered.

2. Whitney Houston - I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)

This was 1987 too, of course, the zenith of the music video, and the succession of short, figure-hugging dresses Whitney wears throughout doubtless sold quite a few copies to boys my age who might not otherwise have liked this kind of music. I think it's fair to say though that I loved this unashamedly at the time, by then I'd quickly worked out that my taste in music was all over the place and couldn't really be kept in a nice, neat, carefully labelled box. Yes, Whitney, for a very brief moment in time I fancied the pants off you. Then I guess you cut you hair and I stopped loving you, as Billy Bragg famously sang.

Apparently Whitney was never comfortable with being a pop star, and as this was her biggest "pop" hit, you have to wonder if she grew to hate it. I hope not, because there's an innocence to it you rarely see in pop music these days, and the fact she looked like she was having such great fun in the video made her even sexier. If she was putting that on, she was a far better actress than The Bodyguard ever allowed her to show.

I bought the album too, in case you were wondering. I must have had it bad.

Sunday 10 September 2017

The Glorious 10th: Welcome To..

We're back (a little earlier than advertised, but I wanted it still to be the 10th).

As promised, I'm changing the rules this month to make things a bit more interesting / easy / difficult / different from the WYCRA feature I ripped off. (In the back of my head, I still hold a tiny hope that the WYCRA gang might one day return, and if they did, and wanted to resume their brief of getting everybody to suggest one word song titles on a Saturday morning, I don't want to have used them all up).

This month's Glorious 10th challenge then is to find ten songs with the words 'Welcome to...' in the title. Some of them will be obvious. Some of them will be obscure. Some of the really obvious ones won't make the ten at all. Points will be allocated thus...
  • 1 point for every song in my Top Ten you correctly guess.
  • 2 points for being the first person to guess that song.
  • 3 points for guessing the song's position in my Top Ten.
  • 5 points for being the first to guess my Number One song and correctly identify it as such.
  • 1 bonus point for any song I have in my collection which I couldn't squeeze into the Top Ten (the 'long list').
  • 1 bonus point for any new songs you suggest which I like.
  • Points will be deducted for really bad suggestions (i.e. U2 or Oasis), or anything that gets me sacked for watching the video at work, Jez.
The only thing you can't have is albums called Welcome To... (unless there's also a track called that on said album). With that in mind, you can't have the track below, although it is a belter: from Welcome To The Beautiful South.

Good luck.

The Glorious 10th - My Top Ten Hello Songs

Hello. It's the Glorious 10th.

Time to reveal My Top Ten Songs called Hello, and just Hello... or a repeated use of that word... or Hello (with something extra in brackets). Once again, I was overjoyed with the response. Thanks to all who played along and trawled their record collections for suitable suggestions (and unsuitable ones). I'll do my best to tally up the points below...

First off the incorrect answers...

(Remember, I will award bonus points for songs I own that didn't make the Top Ten and any that I didn't know but might have given a place to if I had.)

Straight off the mark, C can have a bonus point for suggesting The Rentals, a band created by former Weezer bassist Matt Sharp. I'd never heard it before, but it's not half bad.

C was then first to suggest Adele, which I do own... mainly because I ripped the other half's copy of 25... so that gets a point too. I like Adele and if this had been recorded in 1975, it might have made the chart. I just don't like the modern production sheen that's slopped over it... and most other 21st Century chart hits. It saps the soul from what is otherwise a rather nice tune. In my humble opinion. Similarly Charity Chic's suggestion of Beyoncé. I don't mind a bit of Beyoncé, but this one sounds a bit Beyoncé-by-the-numbers. (I'm very impressed that Beyoncé is such a big star that autocorrect automatically adds an accent to her name. You know you've arrived, etc.) And because I like Mark Owen best out of all the remaining Take Thatters, I'm going to give Alyson a bonus point for this. Because it's quite chipper.

The Swede can also have a bonus point for D.R. Hooker, which I had to listen to the whole album to hear because the single track wasn't on youtube... but it is suitably mental. I'm tempted to deduct a point for his suggestion of Oasis... but then loads of other people went and suggested it too. The chances of Oasis ever cropping up on this chart are somewhere in the remote territory between slim and feck all. Just so you know.

George can have a bonus point for Terry & Gerry, which I can't find anywhere on t'internet, but I'm assuming it's great. Because George suggested it. Or maybe his point is for reminding us how great Hello Walls by Faron Young is. It's a point, anyway: treasure it, George.

Lynchie can have a bonus point for being first to suggest Hello Hello by Talk Show, which I'd never heard before. Apparently they were very big in 1997... in Brazil. Not bad for its era though.

Last month's winner, Martin, can also have a bonus point for suggesting Bic Runga - Hello Hello. I love a bit of Bic, but hadn't heard this one before. Nothing for Evanescence though. I liked the piano, but I kept waiting for it to get going. I'm going to be vicious though and deduct a point for his suggestion of Elton John and Lady Gaga, because a) it's awful; and b) it comes from a film called Gnomeo & Juliet. Neither of them needed the money that much. Martin also can't have any points for Matthew Sweet (and Susannah Hoffs), but only because their cover of the old Todd Rundgren track in question has other words in its title: Hello, It's Me. Otherwise, it's a decent track.

Walter can have a bonus point for Eminem. This is in my collection, but it's mid-period Eminem which is pretty weak. I prefer his earlier stuff and the comeback album.

Jez can't have any bonus points for Martin Solveig Feat. Dragonette (although the video is rather entertaining) or the Stafford Brothers feat. Lil' Wayne & Christina Milian (which is a great example of the mystery of modern chart pop: how can so many people want to put their name to such utter dribble?). Jez also wins the coveted Worst Suggestion Of The Month award (minus two points) for Hello Hello by Twinkle... which my boss caught me watching at work, and now I'm looking for a new job.

Final bonus points go to my old Aussie pal Deano for bringing The Cat Empire, Dan Zanes and Merril Bainbridge to my attention. Good work, even though none of them make the list below...

10. Henry Rollins

Nobody got this one, even after I gave a clue. I'm not the biggest expert on Henry Rollins, and I do find his music a bit shouty at times, but he seems like a decent enough bloke on the radio. Found the album this comes from (Nice) in a charity shop and it's been well worth the 95p I paid for it.

9. ELO Part 2

I know, I know. It's hard enough getting people to admit to liking ELO. What chance have I with the Jeff Lynne-less Part II formed in the late 80s by original drummer Bev Bevan? They released two albums of new material in the 90s, following the ELO template of orchestrated Beatles shenanigans, but without Jeff's magic touch. Still, not bad if you like that kind of stuff.

8. Seahorses

Nobody got this one either... until I gave a partially accurate clue: "A forgotten Britpop band formed by half of a more famous group." C then did her research and came up with John Squire's short-lived Stone Roses replacement, a band that split up after one album in the late 90s due to "creative differences" and the fact that Squire thought their new material sounded "shit".

7. Something Happens - Hello Hello Hello Hello Hello (Petrol)

C suggested this first, even though she couldn't remember what it was called. Then she did remember, so two points for that. 1 point for everyone else who remembered it: bonus point to Jez for remembering that it had a bracketed Petrol on the end. This is from 1990, a pretty awful year for music so I'm not surprised it wasn't a hit. Surely poodle rock haircuts were out by then too? Couldn't lead singer Tom Dunne keep up with fashion and buy himself a pudding bowl?

The lyrics make this for me...
She wears diamonds, she wears rubies
She wears stones as big as my ones
That came from the coliseum
And she says "D'you wanna see them?"
She came from Greece, she had a thirst for knowledge?

6. James

Millionaires is, to me at least, the great unsung James album. This is one of the tracks. It's rather lovely. Apparently it was also used in the soundtrack to a movie I've never seen called The Consequence of Love.

Jez was the first (and only!) person to suggest this. That gets him 2 points. It's not my Number 1 though, Jez.

5. Shakespear's Sister (Turn Your Radio On)

If you were in any doubt that I would choose this song, the brackets should have tipped you over the edge. 2 points to Rigid Digit for suggesting this first. 1 point to anybody else who suggested it.

4. My Pleasure

Here's the one I didn't think anyone would guess... and guess what? Nobody guessed it.

To be honest, I knew chuff-all about My Pleasure until I saw an advert on facebook suggesting I might like his music. I seem to remember there was an offer from his record company (Adult Teeth) to get a free EP, so I sent away for this... and then didn't listen to it all for a year. Until I came to compile this chart, in fact. When I did listen to it, I thought it was great. Lo-fi indie "weird pop" with shades of Jarvis, Half Man Half Biscuit, Denim et al. Worth your listening time if you're into any of those.

(Oh, but if you look back at the clue I gave for this one, you'll see that I couldn't have been more obvious if I'd tried!)

As obscure as this was, it wasn't quite as obscure as The Swede's suggestion of this Beatles "track". He gets one point for Most Obscure Suggestion of the Month.

3. Lionel Richie

Perhaps I should start a new series here called Defending The Indefensible, seeing as though so many of you expressed an aversion to this fine tune (even Alyson!). The Swede was first to hint at it, though he couldn't bring himself to speak its name so doesn't get any points. C named it but refused to make it an official suggestion, preferring to guess at Adele instead. Lynchie was the first one to suggest it seriously, even though he thought The Swede had beaten him to it. 2 points to Lynchie. 1 point to the rest of you, no points for the haters.

Anyway, the point is, I can see why this song causes so much upset. Of course I can. Big slushy 80s ballads are never going to be cool (unless you were a very uncool 12 year old in 1984). But I think this song deserves appreciation for being something else entirely. Indeed, if I wasn't featuring it here, I would have to squeeze it into Volume 2 of My Top Ten Stalker Songs, because it's creepy as hell... much more so than Every Breath You Take. Plus Lionel will always be cooler than Sting. (Cat: meet pigeons.) And don't even start me on the (yes, much-parodied) video in which Lionel proves, undisputedly that stalking DOES pay... but maybe only if you're stalking blind girls.

The proof of a good song though often comes in its re-interpretations. So if the big synthy strings and over-produced 80s echo of Lionel's original might stick in your throat, can I suggest versions by Me First & The Gimme Gimmes (pop punk), Richard Cheese (lounge), Paul Anka (swing*) or even Lionel himself, paired with Jennifer Nettles (country... or so it says on the label).


Your loss.

(*Sez Jez: "from Anka’s 'Rock Swings', which shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the phrase 'Rock'")

2. Prince

Here's a little clue to help you with future editions of The Glorious 10th. If Prince has a song with the word/s of the month, chances are it'll be near the top. Hello was the b-side to Pop Life, available on the peerless 3CD Prince: The Hits & B-Sides compilation, but also (as Jez points out) there's a somewhat different Hello backwards at the end of Side 1 of Purple Rain.

C was the first to guess this. 2 points. 1 to the rest of you: though many of you seemed to think it would be my Number 4, perhaps because those of you were only familiar with the backwards version thought I was being sneaky. Which I would have been...

1. The Beloved

I have something of a love-hate relationship with the whole baggy era (and indeed, I'm not even sure The Beloved fit into the baggy category, though they're from that era and the sound and look fit). There were undeniably some great songs recorded by those bands, but they were always a bit cool and laddy for me to cherish the way I would the Britpop bands a couple of years later. Of course, the worst excesses of Britpop were even laddier, but at least they weren't flirting with dance music and rave culture as much: both of which left me cold.

Hello is my favourite tune by The Beloved despite its Church of Rave qualities, because the lyrical choices are so gleefully uncool. It sounds like Paul McCartney's far-worthier Let 'Em In has been rewritten by a bunch of cheeky 6th Formers... which is exactly what I was in 1989. Where else will you find Willy Wonka, The Supremes, Cannon & Ball, Desmond Tutu, Mork & Mindy, Billy Corkhill, Salman Rushdie, Kym Mazelle, Zippy, Bungle and Jeffrey Archer all in the same song? (Plus Vince Hilaire, who Rigid Digit describes as "Crystal Place and Portsmouth midfield maestro", thereby answering a question I have pondered for 27 years.)

Congratulations (and 2 points) to CC for being the first to guess this one, and (5 points) to my old pal Dave for being the first to guess it would be Number One. Although Dave has an advantage in that we are the same age and we survived the 90's gigging scene together, plus he likes Zippy & Bungle. And probably even Jeffrey Archer. 1 point to everyone else who mentioned it.

OK, so time for the scores on the doors. (RIP, Bruce.) I've added these up as best I can, taking into account all the arcane rules I made up for such things. Apologies if I miscalculated your score, but I'm sure you'll live.

1 point - George (Although last month when I gave George 1 point, he protested that I shouldn't have.)

2 points - Alyson, The Swede, Martin (how the mighty have fallen) and Walter.

3 points - Lynchie, Deano & Rigid Digit.

4 points - Jez.

5 points - Dave and Charity Chic.

But this month's undisputed winner, with a majestic NINE points, has to be...

Well done, C. You win the glory of being a real winner. Enjoy your prize.

Now, I know what you're all waiting for. What you really came here for. Never mind the answers to last month's Glorious 10th... what about this month's?

Come on back tomorrow. I'm knackered now. I had to marshall a birthday party for 20 hyperactive 4 year-olds yesterday, you know!
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