Wednesday 29 November 2017

My Top 90 Mid-Life Crisis Songs #9: Exhaustion

If you're wondering why things are quieter round here than usual, the simple truth is that I'm exhausted. I haven't had a proper break since the beginning of August and it's been a very tough few months at work. The more you give, the more they expect. I'm struggling to keep my head above water at the moment. I can't imagine doing this job for another 20 (or 25!) years...

Sometimes we feel like giving up. About letting the water pull us under. But Cake understand why we carry on...

People you love will turn their backs on you / You'll lose your hair, your teeth, your knife will fall out of its sheath / But you still don't like to leave before the end of the movie People you hate will get their hooks into you / They'll get you down, you'll frown, they'll tar you and drag you through town / But you still don't like to leave before the end of the movie / No, you still don't like to leave before the end of the show.

If they'd added an extra verse about keeping going for your children, because they need you and the idea of letting them down is worse than anything else you could imagine... well, Cake would have nailed my world-view right now.

Monday 27 November 2017

The Gone Too Soon Top Ten #2: Broken English

As has previously been documented here, I didn't start buying my own records until I was 15. That was 1987, so one of the first 7 inch singles to be added to my collection must have been the one above, a Stonesy guitar track packed with attitude, a great hook and a belting intro, made popular by a video depicting the band dressed as Ghostbusters.

Comin' On Strong by Broken English made #17 in the charts and it was one of my favourite songs of the year. I rushed out to buy their follow-up track, Love On The Side, which also benefitted from a great hook, fun lyrics and a top Magnificent 7-themed video. But I may have been the only one, because sadly, it didn't follow Comin' On Strong into the charts...

A cool third single (the poppier Do You Really Want Me Back?) followed, which I remember hearing a couple of times on the radio though I never managed to track a copy down. Still, I thought, no worries... I'll get the album.

Except no album came... and Broken English disappeared into the ether. 

The two singles I owned though have stuck with me over the past 30 years, cropping up on a variety of mixes and compilations tapes I've put together. But not until I sat down to write this feature did I discover (just as I had with Speedy) that the album Broken English's record company refused to release back in 1987 (The Rough With The Smooth) after their second two singles bombed... was finally released 20 years later in 2007.

And now I own it.

Sunday morning, while putting together a particularly vexing shelving unit from Ikea, I played the album on repeat: and it's pretty, pretttty good! The Stones comparisons are obvious (apparently lead singer Steve Elson was originally in a Stones tribute band) but this is lighter, catchier and more fun than anything Mick 'n' Keef in the late 80s, when they might as well have changed their name to The Coasters, had another band not beaten them to it years earlier. I can't believe I finally own this record. If you remember the band at all... and even if you don't... I'd recommend giving a few of these tracks a spin.

Sunday 26 November 2017

Saturday Snapshots #10 - The Answers

Almost a complete sweep this week, guys... just one title you couldn't figure. (We obviously missed Martin!)

10. Dancing with a young Tom Hanks; goes well with French cream... and arsenic!

Dancing is bopping.

A young Tom Hanks appeared in the film Big.

French cream might be Chantilly.

Arsenic & Old Lace.

Like Alyson, who guessed this one from the clues, I had no idea The Big Bopper looked like this until quite recently.

Helllloo baby!

The Big Bopper - Chantilly Lace

9. Pidgin Creole, getting better with Barrett.

Pidgin & creole are types of "Broken English".

If you're getting better, you might be Coming On.

Barrett Strong wrote some of the greatest Motown songs ever.

Broken English - Coming On Strong

Well done to Alyson again, even though she didn't know the song at all. More on these guys shortly in the second edition of Gone Too Soon.

8. Pygmalion on acid, queen of the exploding stars.

Pygmalion = My Fair Lady

Acid is measured by pH.

The queen is Elizabeth.

Exploding stars go supernova.

Liz Phair - Supernova

Chris & The Swede pieced this one together.

(That was the most tasteful picture of Liz Phair I couldn't find on the internet. She's not exactly shy.)

7. Paradise gets down: it'll all be over soon.

Paradise island is just off Nassau in the Bahamas.

Get down and get funky!

It'll all be over soon...

The Beginning of the End - Funky Nassau

Top work from a tipsy C & late Lynchie.

6. The Great Bear Detective & The Case of the Finnish Goth Pronoun.

Rupert Bear + Sherlock Holmes...

HIM is a goth rock band from Helsinki. (They do a pretty cool version of Neil Diamond's Solitary Man.)

Alyson had a good week this week, but I knew this pic would pose her no problems.

Rupert Holmes - Him

5. Put the needle on the record, Mary!

The Virgin Mary is the Madonna.

(Was she ever so young and innocent?)

Well done, Chris.

Madonna - Get Into The Groove

4. Unicycle thieves get stck.

Unicycle thieves would steal just one wheel.

stck needs a U in the middle to become stuck.

Stealer's Wheel - Stuck In The Middle With You

More points for Alyson! She's got to be this week's winner.

3.  Generic pressure.

Shortest clue ever, snapped up by Charity Chic.

A generic band would be called The Band.

Pressure is weight.

The Band - The Weight

Take a load off, Annie.

2. Baby goats wear a short-sleeved shirt while visiting the studio of the lion.

Baby goats are kids.

MGM + a T-shirt

MGMT - Kids

Top work, Chris.

1. Freddie and a short vicar watch a film without Batman.

Freddie Mercury + a short Reverend = Mercury Rev

Well done, Swede.

Perhaps the title clue was a bit too tricky though.

There's a Batman film called The Dark Knight Rises. If Batman is the knight and we lose him...

Apologies for not visiting all your blogs this week. Hope to catch up soon!

Saturday 25 November 2017

Saturday Snapshots #10

You are about to enter another dimension... a dimension not only of sight and sound but of snapshots.

Solve the clues to reveal ten great tunes.

10. Dancing with a young Tom Hanks; goes well with French cream... and arsenic!

9. Pidgin Creole, getting better with Barrett.

8. Pygmalion on acid, queen of the exploding stars.

7. Paradise gets down: it'll all be over soon.

6. The Great Bear Detective & The Case of the Finnish Goth Pronoun.

5. Put the needle on the record, Mary!

4. Unicycle thieves get stck.

3.  Generic pressure.

2. Baby goats wear a short-sleeved shirt while visiting the studio of the lion.

1. Freddie and a short vicar watch a film without Batman.

Answers once I get a spare second!

Thursday 23 November 2017

My Top Ten Indelicates Songs...

...are not here...

...but theye are over here, where I'm guest-posting today with an Imaginary Compilation Album for JC, The Vinyl Villain. Pop over and say hello, won't you?

And here's a bonus track from their excellent new album Juniverbrecher (June Criminal: their reaction to "certain events that took place in June 2016... <and> the resulting devastation to the psychic well-being of Britain". I left this one off the VV compilation because I felt it might irk any musos JC might have reading, as it's a bit (say it quietly and they won't hear) "comedy" although there's a pretty serious message behind it. Especially if you're thinking of going to see a psychic anytime soon...

(Pretty good Yorkshire accents too, for a bunch of Southerners.)


Wednesday 22 November 2017

NEW ENTRY: How To Be A Morrissey Fan In 2017

I'm finally reading the Morrissey autobiography. Sam seems fascinated by it. The other day I caught him flicking through the pages again and asked him what he was doing.

"I'm looking for the bit where he talks about Lightning McQueen."

There Is A Lightning McQueen That Never Goes Out?

Punctured racing car on a hillside desolate?

We Hate It When Our Mater Becomes Successful?

(Dave suggested The McQueen Is Dead: too obvious?)

You might expect that I'd have read this book already: after all, it was published in October 2013 and considering I've been a huge Morrissey fan for most of my adult life...

October '13 though... that was one month after Sam was born. And though I've had the book since then, and tried to start it soon after I bought it, I found it too much for my baby-weakened brain to cope with. Though it appeared well written (and the reviews at the time were glowing: unlike the ridiculous "novel" that followed), there were very few concessions to readers. You know, simple things like chapters... or even many paragraphs. It's a non-stop, Joycean stream-of-conscious ramble through one of the mind of an increasingly bonkers genius. Of course there were no concessions to readers: since when has Morrissey ever made concessions to anyone?

It's been a tough year to be a Morrissey fan. He never makes it easy, but some of the utter bilge he's come out with lately has driven even some of his most ardent admirers to despair. Some (like Gene's Martin Rossiter) even renounced him for good. Not that Morrissey will have given two hoots. I must admit, I came close myself...

And then I bought his new album on the day it came out. In a moment, I'll try to justify myself. First though, a note about the album cover...

Many have commented that the ridiculously reactionary album cover (and, indeed, many of the song titles listed on the back) are a parody of Morrissey. That the man has become a caricature of himself. Well, yes, he has. But surely in this day and age, nobody could get hot under the collar about that cover? Not from Morrissey, of all people? It's over 30 years since The Queen Is Dead, and despite the tabloids trying to cause a stir over that at the time... well, they hardly put him in the Tower, did they?

So how come when I tried to buy the CD in Tesco... then Sainsbury's (don't ask why I shop at two different supermarkets: the answer is scones), the only album cover I could find was this one...?

You can answers that one yourself... I have to get back to my defence.

This is a post about growing older. Aren't they all? You see, Morrissey has played an essential - but ever-changing - role throughout my life.

When I was a teenager, he was the witty miserablist I refused to listen to because everyone told me I'd love him.

In my 20s, when I was often happy in the haze of a drunken hour, he was an essential lifeline...
In my early 30s, he was the only popstar who successfully gave voice to my loneliness and isolation...
I have forgiven you, Jesus
For all the desire,
You placed in me 

When there's nothing I can do with this desire
I think he might actually have saved my life.

As I entered my 40s though, my relationship with Morrissey changed again... I found myself continually having to defend him when the press castigated him for the outrageous and asinine things he said. It was starting to get very tiring.

It's taken me awhile to come to terms with that. But now I have.

Yes, Morrissey is a caricature now. But a caricature is exactly what I need. There's no time left for moping and self-pity. The clock is ticking. We need to enjoy every sandwich. We also need a good laugh. And Morrissey has become the greatest sitcom character ever. Like a demented cross between Larry David, Alf Garnett, Frasier Crane and Victor Meldrew, he's growing old disgracefully... happily putting the cat among the pigeons whenever he's given a lectern to preach from. In lyrics and interviews, he expresses unorthodox opinions that shock and upset the masses... and even longtime Morrissey supporters and apologists, many of them in this little corner of the blogosphere.

On the one hand, you might argue that Morrissey has become so divorced from reality that we can't and shouldn't take his outbursts seriously... his self-loathing egomania knows no bounds... and his views on the world outside his gilded fortress are naïve and blinkered.

But is that the whole story?

In the last week or so, the papers have had a field day about comments he's made regarding Kevin Spacey and the Harvey Weinstein business, comments the newspaper in question obviously went fishing for, because a Morrissey interview is too good an opportunity to pass up: if you can't get him to say something outrageously controversial, you're doing something wrong.

Meanwhile the reviews of his new album have been averagely positive. 3+ stars out of 5 and upwards. Grudgingly so, in most cases. A lot of the reviewers have criticised Mozzer's naïve political stance on tracks such as Israel and The Girl From Tel Aviv Who Would Not Kneel, while most got the knives out the album's centrepiece, an attack on stupid soldiers who blindly follow orders without ever understanding what they're fighting for, I Bury The Living. "What a ghastly man," said one reviewer.

Let's return to our Morrissey sit com for a moment, shall we? There's a scene in a recent episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm where misanthropic Moz-alike Larry David is forced to greet an Afghanistan war hero at a party. Everyone else at the party says, "thank you for your service," when they greet the soldier. David just says hello... and then, in true Larry David style, everyone gets pissed off with him for being so rude and insensitive. The point of this scene was, to me, the "thanks for your service" stuff was done because people felt they ought to. It was about confirming to social niceities and the expectations of the crowd... and Larry David never does that.

Neither does Morrissey. Morrissey is an extreme pacifist - of course he would look down on people who kill on order without understanding why. Whatever you might think about modern day soldiers, there's a big difference between what they do and what our grandparents' generation did in the war. A couple of reviewers have said "the land weeps oil" is a simplistic and obvious metaphor for why there are so many wars fought in the Middle East. I think it's a perfect one: succinct and emotive. If Bono had written that line, he'd have been carried high on the shoulders of journalists everywhere. But not Morrissey.

Something else that irreverent comedy shows like Curb Your Enthusiasm or Brass Eye or even South Park do is allow us to hear unorthodox opinions that challenge the status quo. We may not agree with them, but sometimes it's good to hear them, because if all we ever hear are safe opinions, how are we ever supposed to think for ourselves? And a lot of challenging opinions often contain a kernel of truth, or another way of looking at a situation, a different perspective. Because no situation is black or white. There are a million shades of grey.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I support Morrissey's stance on the Kevin Spacey story (however: has any other commentator asked how the underage boy's parents allowed him to be in that situation?), but I know from friends in the gay community that they consider comparing Spacey to Weinstein to be ridiculous, just because of how things work in their circles. (That said, I'm sure many gay men feel differently... but if we only ever hear one side of a debate, we're back to black and white. And - as Mark points out in the comments - my friends have universally condemned Spacey for linking his own coming out to such allegations because of the damage this does towards public perception of their community as a whole.) Morrissey's Weinstein reaction is harder to defend... but imagine it was a comedian making the point that some actresses might do anything to reach the top? Would the outcry have been so vehement? Look at prostitution and the age old argument about who is really being exploited: the women or their clients? Personally, I think any man who thinks it's OK to use power as a way to initiate a sexual relationship is utterly reprehensible. But again, this issue isn't just black or white. Morrissey's comments are offensive, insensitive and really unhelpful right now... but they touch on grey areas no other commentator has dared to approach in this current (social) media witch-hunt. Most people in the public eye these days are far too worried about reactionary twitter-storms to ever speak out of turn. I wouldn't be surprised if Morrissey still thought twitter was what the sparrows in his garden do when they want some more vegetarian seed (no fatballs chez Moz!).

When Morrissey expresses challenging opinions, it forces us to think without a safety net. It forces us to face up to the fact that the world isn't a simple place and we can't just suck on the safe opinions that are handed down to us by the media. This is Morrissey's role in the music industry, and in the media at large now: he is a provocateur. And we need that more than ever. He knows that: hell, that's what his latest album is all about! 
Teach your kids to recognise and despise all the propaganda
Filter down by the dead echelons mainstream media
That's the opening line of the album. And that's before we even get to possibly the most subversive pop song of his career, Spent The Day In Bed, with it's cheerful chorus of:
Stop watching the news
Because the news contrives to frighten you
To make you feel small and alone
To make you feel that your mind isn't your own
This song made it onto the Radio 2 playlist! The biggest radio station in the country (one of the biggest in the world), run by the blessed BBC... and their breakfast show is pumping out a pop song that is openly criticising them!

I'm an English teacher, and one of the most important lessons I try to teach my students when they ask me "what's the point of doing English?" is that words have power. And that there's a big difference between facts and opinions. The media no longer gives us facts: it gives us opinions disguised as facts. And they're mostly safe opinions that convince us to conform and follow the status quo. We need someone who can shake that up and make us think for ourselves. Morrissey does this... and he's always done it. Sometimes he even blends rhetoric with pop song in a memorable way (November Spawned A Monster is a good example, for the unflinching way it tackled attitudes towards disability... while still being a spooky, hypnotic guitar anthem). Other times, the rhetoric just becomes a dirge... and hell, Smiths fans, there's no better example of that than Meat Is Murder. (Give me I Bury The Living any day: for all its faults, it's a more interesting album track than MIM.)

Do I support everything Morrissey says - in lyrics and interviews? Of course not. Much of it is utter tosh. Occasionally it is even outrageously shocking and offensive. But it makes me think. It challenges me in a way few other social commentators do these days... except certain comedians and comedy shows. And a lot of the time, I think there are kernels of truth in there. Things that - if you filter out the self-publicising, outrage-for-outrage's-sake bullshit - nobody else is saying. I've listened to Low In High School almost nonstop since I got it last Friday and no other record has made me think as much - or as hard - this year.

Larry David. Frankie Boyle*. Todd Solondz. Chris Morris. Bill Hicks. Trey Parker & Matt Stone. Morrissey. (The only other musician I can think of who comes close if Mark Kozelek, but hardly anyone knows who is, whereas Morrissey is virtually a household name.)

The most subversive people we have in our society are often comedians. Or their creations. Morrissey is one of them. I won't be defending him any more. I don't need to. He is exactly what the world needs right now. Long may he continue to horrify us.

 (*I hate Frankie Boyle: but I accept that he fits the criteria I'm talking about above to a tee.)

Tuesday 21 November 2017

Saturday Snapshots #9 - The Answers

We now return you to our regularly scheduled programme... two days late. Apologies, we have visitors from New Zealand, the decorators and a new kitten. I haven't had time to blow my nose, let alone blog...

As usual, you pretty much worked them all out between you.

10. Len met Adam x 2. Said hi to drugs from a witch doctor.

Len (123) Barry + Ryan Adams (Adam x 2) = Barry Ryan.

Hi = hello (or 'elo!)

The Shamen (witch doctors) sang about E's being good...

The Swede worked that out, also recalling that the song was written by Barry's brother, Paul.

Barry Ryan - Eloise

9. Restaurant for birds: glue on the menu.

George came up with a much fancier answer for this clue: The Penguin Café Orchestra.

Rigid Digit takes his birds to much more basic eateries though, meaning he was able to spot Feeder.

Nobody got that cement is a type of glue.

Feeder - Cement

8. Hayes goes feminine on the road to the Cathedral: won't stop listening to Bruce's longest player.

Hayes Carll is a cool Americana singer. A feminine version of his name would be Carly.

Paul had his epiphany on the road to Damascus and ended up a Saint who had a Cathedral named after him... all of which leads us rather tenuously to Paul Simon. One of my more misleading clues, but Alyson got there in the end, even though Chris was convinced this was one of the three sirens from Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?

The River is Bruce Springsteen's longest album - well, it's his only double album.

Carly Simon - Let The River Run 

7. The Amarillo Hulk avoids the Flaming Lips' postman.

Tony Christie sang (Is This The Way To) Amarillo? Lou Ferrigno was The Incredible Hulk.

The Flaming Lips have a song called Lightning Strikes The Postman.

Lou Christie - Lightning Strikes

Charity Chic was reluctant to admit to having this poster on his bedroom wall. George had no such qualms. Martin glued the pieces together.

6. Spock's killer loses her pliers while sympathising with Prince.

Spock died in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. (I originally typed The Wrath of Kath, which would have been a much better title.)

Chaka Demus & Pliers were a popular beat combo from the decade known as the 90s.

If you sympathise, you feel for someone. Prince wrote the song.

Chris was first out of the traps this week and nabbed the easy one...

Chaka Khan - I Feel For You

5. Find your fortune in Motown and you'll always stay warm.

If you found your fortune, you'd be lucky.

Motown = Soul.

If you're always warm... you ain't never been cool.

The most obscure track this week, but we can always rely on Martin.

Lucky Soul - Ain't Never Been Cool

4. The 18th provost makes you a suit despite being hunted by Harrison.

R is the 18th letter of the alphabet.

Provost is another name for a Dean.

Tailors make suits.

Harrison Ford was Indiana Jones.

Alyson spotted the artist straight away but figured I was making a reference to George Harrison being a ghost now, so went for There's A Ghost In My House. Like I'd ever be so bad taste, Alyson!

The Swede set her right...

R. Dean Taylor - Indiana Wants Me

3. The sound made by a feuerwehrauto, after almost a century of hot air.

A feuerwehrauto would be a German fire engine, which might go Nena Nena Nena (Nena being German, see).

Almost a century would be 99 years; hot air is what you get in balloons.

I figured Alyson would get this one... though Rigid Digit provided the German translation (Neunundneunzig Luftballons).

Nena - 99 Red Balloons

2. Go to the chemist for gender realignment.

A chemist is a drugstore.

Gender realignment could change lead singer Isabel Monteiro into a man.

Pretty simple, if you know the song. The Swede did.

Drugstore - I Want To Love You Like A Man

1. Scared by basic Maths? Be polite to Quincy.

Basic Maths would involve counting.

Scare... crows.

If you were polite to Quincy, you wouldn't call him a doctor (no, it wasn't a reference to Jack Klugman), you would call him Mr.... Jones.

Another easy win for The Swede (though I'm surprised he took credit for knowing such an "uncool" band... then again why else did I make them this week's Number One?)

Thanks, as always, for taking part.

I'll be back later in the week with possibly my most controversial post yet (particularly right now): How To Be A Morrissey Fan in 2017. Despite all those who are turning against him, I will endeavour to explain why I think we need Morrissey right now... perhaps more than we ever have.

So that'll be fun.

(If it makes you unfollow this blog, well - thanks for sticking with it as long as you have!)

Saturday 18 November 2017

Saturday Snapshots #9

Say cheese... or cheesy!

Ten clues to ten great songs by ten great artists. Who can guess them first?

10. Len met Adam x 2. Said hi to drugs from a witch doctor.

9. Restaurant for birds: glue on the menu.

8. Hayes goes feminine on the road to the Cathedral: won't stop listening to Bruce's longest player.

7. The Amarillo Hulk avoids the Flaming Lips' postman.

6. Spock's killer loses her pliers while sympathising with Prince.

5. Find your fortune in Motown and you'll always stay warm.

4. The 18th provost makes you a suit despite being hunted by Harrison.

3. The sound made by a feuerwehrauto, after almost a century of hot air.

2. Go to the chemist for gender realignment.

1. Scared by basic Maths? Be polite to Quincy.

The only question remaining...

How long will it take Martin to get them all?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...