Saturday 30 June 2018

Saturday Snapshots #39

I Love To Boogie on a Saturday night... but on Saturday morning, I love to play Saturday Snapshots.

Identify ten artists and songs from the clues below, please...

10. Elton joins Limp Bizkit at the mansion while a rainbow child goes undercover at the opticians.

(Convoluted yet easy if you think about it.)

9. Aha is confused by getting booed offstage at The Sands.

8. Heavenly parsley from Houston causes personal illness.

7. Elemental dreams.

6. Fake philosopher rustles up a glider - that's cool with me.

5. Ripper's boy in a local area network crosses time zones to finish work early.

4. Contemporary jungle queen goes oriental.

3. Dead guy gets stuck in Macca's farm and puts us all to sleep.

2. The very best of unknown aeroplanes.

1. Desperate and determined child stars.

I'll Get It On with the answers tomorrow morning...

Friday 29 June 2018

Neverending Top Ten #4.1: 90 Years Ago Tomorrow...

The Neverending Top Ten normally involves posts about my son, but today it's about my mum. Tomorrow will be her 90th birthday. She was born June 30th, 1928. Imagine everything she's seen since then.

This is going to be a pretty short tribute, but my mum is the best. Despite failing eyesight and hearing, I've never heard her complain. She is always happy and positive and has the best sense of humour of anyone I know. She is kind and generous, selfless: she always puts her family before herself. She loves a good gossip, and winding my dad up. She's had a tough year, losing her best friend a few weeks back, but she remains positive and always looks on the bright side. I love her more than I could ever tell her. I hope she knows that.

Happy birthday, Mum. I tried to think of a song you might like, but you've never really been too bothered about that whole pop music malarkey. Still, you always liked a bit of Elvis...

Thursday 28 June 2018

My Top Ten TV Theme Tunes (Instrumental)

This is actually a repost from my old blog, originally posted back in 2010. It was requested by Martin - probably the only person (apart from JC) who remembers the old blog. Anyway, Martin posted a link relating to one of the shows on this list recently and it seemed a good time to dust this off... particularly as I'm on holiday this week so had to pre-prepare all my posts.

When I originally decided to compile a list of my favourite TV themes, it quickly became apparent that these break down into two distinct categories - those with vocals, and those without. So I did a list for each. I may have to revise the vocals one before reposting it (if anyone's interested) as I don't agree with all my original choices now, but I'm pretty happy with the list below so I think I'll leave it as it is.

It should go without saying (except this is the internet, and you can't ever be too careful) that this isn't a list of my favourite TV shows. In fact, there's only one show here which would get on that list... wonder if you can guess which? On the other hand, my all-time favourite TV show has a theme tune that sounds like someone from Stomp banging a bunch of dustbin lids together... so there's no correlation between a great theme tune and a great TV show.

The majority of my favourite theme tunes hail from the 70s and 80s. One or two are from even further back. What does that tell us? Theme tunes were much better when we were kids... even if TV shows weren't. (Or maybe some of them were... but most of the ones on this list have aged pretty badly and can only be viewed with a nostalgic eye these days.)

At the time of compiling this list, I suggested a few runners-up, including The AvengersBlakes 7DallasDr. Who Star Trek and Starsky & Hutch. I think I should have included Taxi on that list too. I can't think of any memorable TV themes from the last 10 years or so... but that may be because I fast-forward through the credits on most shows I watch these days. The TV theme tune is a lost artform then, and these were some of the greats...

10. The Sweeney

Harry South's theme to The Sweeney spells out the name of the show musically. "The Sweeney - the Sweeney - doo doodoo doo doodoo... etc." A number of Hammer Horror films used the same technique, as did The Return Of The Saint and the "Tucker Jenkins" motif from the end of the Grange Hill theme. "Shut it!"

9. The Incredible Hulk - The Lonely Man Theme

Was there ever a sadder image than poor old 'David'* Banner shrugging his backpack over his shoulder and walking out of town, thumbing a lift while nobody stops? That was all down to Joe Harnell's Lonely Man Theme, which closed The Incredible Hulk every week.

(*They called him David, not Bruce, on TV, allegedly because the producers thought Bruce sounded "too gay". Ah, the 70s: the decade when offensiveness became an artform.)

8. The Professionals

Wa-wa wa! Wa-wa wawa wawawawa wa-wa... wa wa-wa wa! Dung - chikka chikka chikka chikka chikka - wa wa-wa wa!

Ha - look at Martin Shaw's perm! Snigger.

7. Mission Impossible

My love of Lalo Schifrin's Mission Impossible music was tainted slightly when Tom Cruise and those muppets from U2 got hold of it. Still, if I close my eyes and picture Peter Graves and Martin Landau, everything's all right.

6. The A Team

The only problem with the A Team theme is that it takes so long to get going. Yes, I know we need that famous talky bit first, but hurry up with the nobody-gets-hurt car chases already! The first Mike Post theme on this list...

5. Hill Street Blues

...followed immediately by the second Mike Post theme on this list.

I took piano lessons for almost ten years, but I was never very good. The theme to Hill Street Blues was one of the only things I could ever really play. And that's easy! Simple, but effective - and quite unlike most other cop shows of its time. Let's be careful out there...

4. The Rockford Files

Three Mike Post theme tunes in a row! The man is a genius. This was a Top 10 hit in the States back in 1975.

When I was a kid, Jim Rockford's answering machine seemed like the ultimate in futuristic, high-tech innovation. You just know that if they ever do a remake, Jim's gonna be on Twitter.

3. Magnum PI

Look who's back again... even MORE Mike Post!

TC's helicopter swooping down over a crystal blue sea, the smirk on Tom Selleck's face, Higgins being a prissy English cliche... the Magnum theme tune conjures up so many memories. There's a lot going on in this theme - it's like three tunes in one. I'm also convinced the Manic Street Preachers nicked one of them.

2. The Twilight Zone

Possibly one of the most iconic TV themes ever recorded - and yet it's so simple. "Doo-doo doo-doo..." has entered the cultural language in the same way as the "der-der der-der" from Jaws. I reckon there's people who "doo doo doo doo" and they've never even seen The Twilight Zone. Which is a crying shame. Because it's still brilliant, even after all these years.

The theme was written by Bernard Herrmann, the man responsible for many of Hitchcock's most famous film themes (including North By North West, Vertigo and eek!eek!eek!eek! Psycho).

1. Hawaii Five-0

The prime example of a theme tune that transcends its show. What else do you remember about Hawaii Five-0? "Book 'im, Danno!" If you ever find yourself watching this show again, you're almost certain to find it deathly dull. But that theme tune - even forty years on, it's one of the most exciting things I've ever heard coming out of a television set.

I've never seen the remake - perhaps it's a much better TV show. Apparently they originally tried a different version of the theme tune on that but quickly decided that you don't mess with perfection and got some of the original session musicians back in the studio to re-record it exactly as it originally was... only shorter, for the shorter attention spans of today's TV audiences.

This theme was written by Morton Stevens, a former musical director for the Rat Pack. Unlike Mike Post and Bernard Herrmann though, he appears to be a bit of a One Hit Wonder in the theme tune stakes. Still, as I always say, if you're only gonna have one hit... make it a belter!

So, those were mine - what are yours?

Remember, instrumental themes only... I'll discuss singalongs later, if you're interested.

Wednesday 27 June 2018

2018 Contenders: In Case Of Emergency...

It's almost four years since I named Stay Gold, the last album by First Aid Kit, as my album of the year... so it's fair to say my anticipation and expectations for their follow-up were stratospheric.

Ruins is a lovely record, complete with the usual mix of angelic harmonies and timeless Laurel-Canyon-via-Stockholm folk. The album dwells on heartbreak and loss, yet makes it all sound so beautiful you almost wish you were experiencing those emotions too. When I'm listening to it, I cannot fault it. Klara and Johanna even get to indulge their Stevie Nicks fantasies on Rebel Heart.

So why do I know this won't be my favourite album of 2018?

Is it because the production sounds a little bit too polished, as the record company clearly push them towards a Radio 2 mainstream?

Is it because, lyrically, the themes of loss and heartbreak don't quite resonate with me in the same way Stay Gold's themes did? (At the time, I said: "It's a record about growing old, about happiness being fleeting, about not knowing what you've got till it's gone... and yes, Joni would approve.")

Or is it because once a band has reached perfection, and my unrealistic expectations are for more of the same (an impossibility, since perfection itself is fleeting) or even better (no chance!), they can only really disappoint me?

Maybe a little bit of all those things, but don't let that put you off. There's much to be enjoyed here. I've been listening to Ruins on and off since February and haven't grown tired of it yet.

Tuesday 26 June 2018

Hot 100 Countdown #78

Whitey Morgan & The 78s (worth a dabble if you like a bit of Americana) welcome you to the latest edition of the Hot 100 Countdown as we reach number seventy eight... a number for which, once I'd discounted songs about 1978, there were two clear contenders.

We'll get to those in a moment. First though, your suggestions...

Martin was first out of the gate with something which would have been a clear winner had this been about 1978...

Bruce Springsteen - Racing In The Street '78... Oh, the harmonica! Oh, the piano! Oh the nostalgic American romanticism!

Martin also offered the following, which I'd never hear before but does the job nicely...

Rich Mullins & A Ragamuffin Band - 78 Eatonwood Green

Next up was The Swede who offered this lo fi oddity. Pretty good, though it does sound like it was recorded on Memorex.

Omni - 78

Rigid Digit was among those suggesting today's winner, but he also offered a couple more sterling contenders that live right next to each other in all our record collections. This...

Manic Street Preachers - Montana/Autumn/78

And this... which gets him top marks. Always got time for Manly Barrymore.

Barry Manilow - Summer of '78

All excellent - but what were my original contenders? Well, the runner-up was always going to be this, seconded by Martin...

Stiff Little Fingers - 78 RPM

The winner though? Obvious, it seems. Suggested first by Lynchie, then seconded by just about everybody else.

My other half went to uni with the lead singer of Gomez. Her only memory of him is that he was "a bit full of himself", which I guess goes with the territory if you're gonna be a pop singer. However, I'd back this up by saying that the one time I saw Gomez play live in the late 90s, they spoiled a perfectly fine gig by not knowing when to finish and doing about 27 encores like they were James Brown or someone with a lot more than just one half-decent album to go at. We left at about encore five, but for all I know they carried on all night. They'd probably still be doing the show today if the venue in question hadn't been knocked down 15 years ago.


Next week... 77. Any suggestions gratefully received.

Monday 25 June 2018

Talky Songs #4: Frank's Wild Years

You may be one of those people who claims not to love / like / get Tom Waits. I dunno. I know such people are out there. Some of them are even people whose opinions on other matters I respect greatly.

But really...

I mean, really...

How could you not love this?

Frank settled down in the Valley
And he hung his wild years
On a nail that he drove through
His wife's forehead.
He sold used office furniture
Out there on San Fernando Road
And assumed a $30,000 loan
At 15¼% and put a down payment
On a little two bedroom place.
His wife was a spent piece of used jet trash
Made good bloody marys,
Kept her mouth shut most of the time
Had a little Chihuahua named Carlos
That had some kind of skin disease
And was totally blind. They had a
Thoroughly modern kitchen
Self-cleaning oven (the whole bit),
Frank drove a little sedan.
They were so happy.

One night Frank was on his way home
From work, stopped at the liquor store,
Picked up a couple Mickey's Big Mouths
Drank 'em in the car on his way
To the Shell station. He got a gallon of
Gas in a can, drove home, doused
Everything in the house, torched it.
Parked across the street, laughing,
Watching it burn, all Halloween
Orange and chiminey red. Then
Frank put on a top forty station
Got on the Hollywood Freeway.
Headed north.

(And they gave Bob Dylan the Nobel Prize for Literature!?)

Never could stand that dog... 

Sunday 24 June 2018

Saturday Snapshots #38 - The Answers

Yesterday, all the answers seemed so far away. Now it looks as though they're here to stay...

Due to holidays in the sun, I can't award points in the post today, but I'll try to congratulate the winners in the comments section later (wifi permitting).

10. The sound of double strength executives. I can do a pretty good William Shatner.

Mighty x 2 + boss + tones.

You... all... WANT... to.... hearmyWilliamShatnerimpressionnow, don't you?

The Mighty Mighty Bosstones - The Impression That I Get

9. American settlers go west - confidently agreeing and denying.

American settlers who went west were pioneers - Yeah or No?

The Pioneers - Let Your Yeah Be Yeah (And Your No Be No)

8. Limited Garfunkel - York or Hoffs?

Art Ltd... or The Art Company.

York and Hoffs were both Susannas.

The Art Company - Susanna

(Great cheesy 80s video for that one.)

7. Acoustic newt gets mixed up with a pirate.

Acoustic newt is a rather fetching anagram for The Cocteau Twins.

Bluebeard was a pirate.

The Cocteau Twins - Bluebeard

6. Khaki, Russet & Beige are ringing.

The Browns - Three Bells

5. A fuzzy second.

Blur - Song 2

4. Shh! Existential violets.

Deep Purple - Hush

3. One for you, one for me, dear. Comparable to an outlaw.

Share and Cher alike, my dear.

"Come on, baby, show me what that loaded gun is for..."

Always the subtle one, that Cher.

Cher - Just Like Jesse James

2. The patron saint of road rage gets blown away.

Saint Christopher gets Cross.

Christopher Cross - Ride Like The Wind

1. Whipping flittermouse ponders Twin Peaks mystery.

The big mystery in Twin Peaks was who killed Laura Palmer.

A flittermouse is a bat.

With A Little Luck, Saturday Snapshots will return next week.

Saturday 23 June 2018

Saturday Snapshots #38

You'd think that people would have had enough of Saturday Snapshots... but I look around me and I see it isn't so - oh no.

Some people want to fill the world with Saturday Snapshots.

Well, what's wrong with that?

I'd like to know.

'Cos here I go... again...

Identify ten artists and songs from the clues below, please.

10. The sound of double strength executives. I can do a pretty good William Shatner.

9. American settlers go west - confidently agreeing and denying.

8. Limited Garfunkel - York or Hoffs?

7. Acoustic newt gets mixed up with a pirate.

6. Khaki, Russet & Beige are ringing.

5. A fuzzy second.

4. Shh! Existential violets.

3. One for you, one for me, dear. Comparable to an outlaw.

2. The patron saint of road rage gets blown away.

1. Whipping flittermouse ponders Twin Peaks mystery.

I'll be on the road today, so I won't be able to help. You're on your own, folks. Don't let me down.

Answers Coming Up tomorrow morning...

Friday 22 June 2018

Grumpy Old Men Songs #6: Underlying Depression

Today we have reportedly one of the grumpiest men in show-business, from being a churlish young-whipper snapper right through to the miserable old cur he is now... though I'm never quite sure what he has to be so grumpy about. He keeps churning out the records and folk keep buying them.

6. Van Morrison

Here's a track that might explain much, from way, way back in 1995 - that's 23 years ago, old folks - when Van The Man was a mere strip of a lad at just 49 years of age. Maybe you can relate to it...

Have to make some concessions when everything is working right
Have to count my blessings, helps me make it through the night
I've got love in my life as well as trouble and strife
And underlying depression

Thursday 21 June 2018

My Top Ten Dinosaur Songs (Volume 2)


And we're back - with songs featuring specific (rather than generic) dinosaurs. Thanks for your suggestions... even with them, this week's Top Ten proved a lot trickier than expected. Probably because dinosaurs don't obviously rhyme with anything else - except other dinosaurs. Unless you're Prince. Anyway, these may not be the best ten tunes I've ever featured, but they do all feature specific dinosaurs. No Triceratops or diplodocuses though, sadly.

Special mention to Terry Dactyl & The Dinosaurs - with thanks to Alyson (and Lynchie for the history lesson).

10. Kasabian - Velociraptor

I'll grudgingly put this at #10, because I never really got Kasabian... or velociraptors. I was convinced when Jurassic Park first came out that they were just a figment of Michael Crichton had made up. Seriously, had you ever heard of a velociraptor before then?

9. Enter Shikari - Hello Tyrannosaurus, Meet Tyrannicide

Shouty-shouty-shouty... but still more interesting than Kasabian.

8. Big Brother & The Holding Company - Caterpillar

Yes, I know a caterpillar isn't a dinosaur. But there are pterodactyls in this song too! With added Janis Joplin.

7. The Soft Boys - The Pigworker

Surprised The Swede didn't suggest this one... I bet he's kicking himself now!

So the Pterodactyl wore a hood of leather
And he opened everybody, even Heather
With her foaming roses and broken hair
She was all used up

No idea. But it doesn't sound very nice, does it?

6. The Gourds - Fossil Contender

Bit of a cheat this one, but I like The Gourds... and all dinosaurs pretty much ended up as fossils, right?

5. T-Rex - Summer Deep

T-Rex singing about pterodactyls! There's more generic dinosaur action from Mr. Bolan in Truck On Tyke.

4. Ash - T Rex

I'm presuming this is their tribute to Marc Bolan... but it could be about an actual T-Rex. Always hard to tell when it comes to Ash songs - they could be about anything. Nice noise though.

3. Super Furry Animals - Hit & Run / Psyclone!

The Swede offered Hit & Run, with lots of dinosauric lyrics to choose from, including a bit about  "Pterodactyls flying round my attic"... but surely I can trump that with Psyclone…?

Pterodactyl, Brontosaurus
Tyrannosaurus Rex gather around
The sound of thunder now awaits us
A meteorite is coming on down
Hit & Run is probably the better song though.

2. Prince - Dinner With Delores

Only Prince could rhyme Delores with Brontosaurus and make it work...

1. The Move - Brontosaurus

Most popular suggestion from you guys... well, Lynchie and Rigid Digit both voted for it. Seems like the obvious winner this week...

Frank N. Furter Tim Curry does an interesting version of this too.

Wednesday 20 June 2018

Radio Songs #39: J.

I made some good friends during my time in radio. Most of whom I've long since lost touch with, as we do with those people who come in and out of our lives via work. One of them was J., a presenter I worked with for a time on the Saturday morning show. He was a little bit wacky, I guess, but in a sarcastic way I kind of appreciated. Not an annoying disc jockey way... even though he was a disc jockey, and some people no doubt found him annoying. He was very quick-witted when dealing with callers (he would occasionally fill in on the phone-in show when the regular presenter was on holiday) but never nasty. He had a cat called Bostik, in the same way Tony Blackburn had a dog called Arnold. He always made me laugh.

The other odd thing about J. was that he lived on a boat. A sail boat (not a yacht). Just like Jack Klugman in Quincy, M.E. This always seemed extremely exotic to me, though I'm not sure how his girlfriend put up with it. One weekend, he invited me sailing and we took his boat out of Hull marina and sailed it under the Humber Bridge. It was my only experience of sailing - good fun, but pretty exhausting. (You have to duck a lot.)

I haven't seen J. in almost 20 years, I guess, but I was pleased to see he's still working in radio when I googled him... although he's obviously moved darn sarth since we lost touch. I hope he's doing OK. When I think of him, this song always comes to mind...

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