Friday 30 November 2018

The United Kingdom of Song #13: The Gower Peninsula

To South Wales today, for our final entry in the United Kingdom of Song this year. The first place in the country to be designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, way back in 1956. It looks pretty damned beautiful to me.

Bonnie Tyler was born a few miles away in the village of Skewen, but now lives right on the edge of Gower in the charmingly-named coastal town of Mumbles.

Lyrically, I could only find one mention of the Gower Peninsula in song, but as it comes from a favourite of mine, one is all I needed. Here's the amazing Richard Thompson (watch those fingers on that guitar!) with the tale of a lost love he just couldn't keep hold of...

We was camping down the Gower one time
The work was pretty good
She thought we shouldn't wait for frost
And I thought maybe we should

We were drinking more in those days
And tempers reached a pitch
Like a fool I let her run
With the rambling itch

Last I hear she's sleeping out
Back on Derby beat
White Horse in her hip pocket
And a wolfhound at her feet

The United Kingdom of Song will return in 2019...

Thursday 29 November 2018

Neverending Top Ten #10.1: Walking Away

The last time I wrote an entry in my Neverending Top Ten series, I was trying to come to terms with my feelings over Sam starting school and the inevitable sense of letting go that comes with this.

Lying in bed the other night, I heard this poem on the radio and after a few lines my pillow was pretty soaked...

Walking Away

by C-Day Lewis

It is eighteen years ago, almost to the day –
A sunny day with leaves just turning,
The touch-lines new-ruled – since I watched you play
Your first game of football, then, like a satellite
Wrenched from its orbit, go drifting away

Behind a scatter of boys. I can see
You walking away from me towards the school
With the pathos of a half-fledged thing set free
Into a wilderness, the gait of one
Who finds no path where the path should be.

That hesitant figure, eddying away
Like a winged seed loosened from its parent stem,
Has something I never quite grasp to convey
About nature’s give-and-take – the small, the scorching
Ordeals which fire one’s irresolute clay.

I have had worse partings, but none that so
Gnaws at my mind still. Perhaps it is roughly
Saying what God alone could perfectly show –
How selfhood begins with a walking away,
And love is proved in the letting go.

Here's a song in similar vein, one I've featured here before and will no doubt feature again, one that has a similar effect on me and reminds me to treasure every moment...

Wednesday 28 November 2018

My Top Ten Sing Songs

Sing something simple. Here's ten songs where singers tell us to sing. Lazy buggers: they want us to do our job for them. Or... maybe they just want to remind us how good it feels to sing sometimes.

Ten songs that celebrate singing. Go!

10. Mel Tillis - Come On & Sing

A recent discovery... from the distant past... by a country songwriter perhaps more famous for the songs he wrote than for singing them.

9. My Chemical Romance - Sing

A much-missed band. Well, by me, anyway.

8. Stylistics - Sing Baby Sing

A song celebrating the fact that the world is getting better every day...

Wait, come back!

7. Blur - Sing

From the soundtrack to Trainspotting.

6. Kevin Ayers - Sing A Song In The Morning

Kevin Ayers' backing band on this track is The Whole World. It's nice to have friends.

5. Travis - Sing

Travis at their most singalong.

If you can't handle that, you may prefer the Glen Campbell version. If I were Fran Healy, I'd consider my job done once Glen Campbell had recorded one of my songs.

4. Aretha Franklin - Sing It Again - Say It Again

Funky in the extreme - sounds like the theme to a 70's cop show with added Aretha.

3. Martin Rossiter - Sing It Loud

The other day, Martin (not Rossiter) was lamenting the fact that this Martin has only ever recorded one solo album. I couldn't agree more. This was a cracker. We demand more!

2. Morrissey - Sing Your Life

Could this be the happiest song Morrissey ever recorded?

Don't leave it all unsaid
Somewhere in the wasteland of your head, 
And make no mistake, my friend
Your pointless life will end

Well, maybe not...

But before you go
Can you look at the truth ?
You have a lovely singing voice
A lovely singing voice
And all of those
Who sing on-key
They stole the notion
From you and me
So, sing your life...

It always makes me happy though.

1. The Carpenters - Sing

Come on, it had to be, didn't it?

(What else were you expecting? REO Speedwagon?)

Sing to me in the comments, if you will...

Tuesday 27 November 2018

Hot 100 #56

Welcoming us to the final edition of the Hot 100 countdown for 2018 are "American Celtic punk band" Flatfoot 56.

I'll start the ball rolling with this...

Chet Baker - Baker '56

...something I'd expected to see suggested by The Swede... perhaps it just wasn't jazz enough for him...

...but it did the job for me.

As for the second suggestion I expected from The Swede... well, it turns out Martin beat him to that.

Meet me in the morning, 56th and Wabasha.

Sharp-eyed readers may have spotted that I prophesied that one last week.

Martin also offered this...

Dom Perignon and caviar, the finest clothes, and fancy cars.
Oh you know, one of them '56 pink caddies, baby!

And knowing Prince, those are probably the cleanest lyrics in that song.

So with all that out of the way, what did The Swede come up with this week (beyond seconding Martin's Dylan suggestion)? Well, he came damned close... I think we'll call this our runner up.

If only David Gedge had realised, way back in the 80s when he was naming his band, the confusion that would be caused by google searching "Wedding Present 56". Took me ages to find a video, but I do now know what to buy someone for their 56th Wedding Anniversary. (Well, actually, I don't, as there isn't an official gift for 56 years together. I'd suggest a holiday. Or perhaps two separate holidays, in entirely different places.)

Lynchie was next up, thinking he was onto a winner with the following...

I told her that I was a flop with chicks
I've been this way since 1956
She looked at my palm and she made a magic sign
She said "What you need is love potion number nine

I've got to say you can't really argue with Love Potion No. 9, it is a bona fide classic. My selection is more personal though... but feel free to try that one again in about a year's time, Lynchie.

Finally, Rigid Digit had two great thoughts this week. First this...

Oh, you get me ready in your '56 Chevy
Why don't we go sit down in the shade?

And then, even better, this...

Wanna tell you story
About woman I know
When it comes to lovin'
She steals the show
She ain't exactly pretty
Ain't exactly small
42 39 56
You could say she's got it all...

They don't write them like that anymore, do they?

But this week's winner... as suggested by Martin... comes from one of my favourite bands of the 80s - perhaps the ultimate feelgood rock 'n' pop act. I've written many times before of my great love for Huey Lewis & The News... and for this song in particular. (Actually, I think I was trying to be too cool and down with da musos when I wrote that post. Huey should have been #1. Sorry, Charlies.)

I can still see him standing there
Just like yesterday
Leaning on his '56
Giving his secrets away
Is it any wonder
I feel a little lonely
He's not just the only one
He's the one and only

Due to year-end shenanigans, the Hot #100 will return in January. Feel free to make your suggestions for #55 now in anticipation of its glorious return...

Monday 26 November 2018

2018 Contenders: Borderline

I've been somewhat taken with the new Alejandro Escovedo record lately, a story song cycle about two immigrants trying to get into the USA over the Mexican border that stands tall against Trump's wall. Escovedo copes well with a wide range of styles: rock, country, Americana, punk, balladry... even the odd beat on a couple of tracks. He's helped out along the way by Tex-Mex songwriter Joe Ely, Peter Perrett from The Only Ones (which should go down well with at least a couple of people reading this blog) and Wayne Kramer from the MC5.

The Crossing is a record that works better as a whole than in separate chunks, and because of the variety on offer it's hard to pick one track that's representative of the whole, but the title track is definitely a great album closer...

Sunday 25 November 2018

Saturday Snapshots #60 - The Answers

"What are the answers to yesterday's Saturday Snapshots, Rol? I Need To Know!"

Apparently this week's Saturday Snapshots was a tough one. OK guys, don't have a Breakdown. Hopefully you'll Feel A Whole Lot Better now... well done to Lynchie for reclaiming the early bird crown this week...

10. Nathaniel holds his own against the 7th rabbit house. Control.

Nate is short for Nathaniel and he is holding a dog.

Rabbits live in warrens. G is the 7th letter of the alphabet.

Warren G & Nate Dogg - Regulate

9. Goes with Bella and Mad to see the sun, wireless.


Summer sun.

Wireless radio.

Donna Summer - On The Radio

8. Straightening the shelves, always in the same direction.

Whenever I put up a shelf, I have to make sure it's level.

Going in the same direction would be one way.

The Levellers - One Way

7. Uncaring sods go for a 42.195 kilometre run.

A bit obscure, but... tune!

Heartless Bastards - Marathon

6. Where prayers are answered... could be 50% better.

"The part of a Methodist meeting house formerly occupied by worshippers who responded to the preacher's utterances with occasional shouts of ‘Amen!’."

The Amen Corner - (If Paradise Is) Half As Nice

5. Portable computer goes through customs without any trouble.

If you don't know this one, you should give it a go. Kooky but fun.

Laptop - Nothing To Declare

4. Enterprise on rocky foundations.

The Enterprise was a Starship.

Starship - We Built This City (On Rock 'n' Roll)

Apparently, this has been voted the worst song of the 80s. Hard to imagine why, in a decade where Stock, Aitken & Waterman were active.

3. Fall singer becomes lunatic on the box.

Mark E. sounds very much like Marquee.

Lunatic means driven mad by the moon.

Television is The Box. (Although they're not really boxes anymore, are they?)

Television - Marquee Moon

2. Proustian detective agency from the 80s.

Proust was Marcel.

The Blue Moon Detective Agency was where David Addison & Maddie Hayes worked in the 80s.

The Marcels - Blue Moon

So much better than the Showaddywaddy cover... discuss?

1. Where Richard met Judy... after you left.

Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain is a mnemonic to help you remember the colours in a rainbow.

Judy Garland went Somewhere Over The Rainbow.

I Won't Back Down. Saturday Snapshots returns next week!

Saturday 24 November 2018

Saturday Snapshots #60

I took a mystery and made you want it... it's time to turn Saturdays Upside Down again with some Snapshots. Identify ten artists and ten top tunes from the clues below, please. I know there Ain't No Mountain High Enough to stop you solving them all...

10. Nathaniel holds his own against the 7th rabbit house. Control.

9. Goes with Bella and Mad to see the sun, wireless.

8. Straightening the shelves, always in the same direction.

7. Uncaring sods go for a 42.195 kilometre run.

6. Where prayers are answered... could be 50% better.

5. Portable computer goes through customs without any trouble.

4. Enterprise on rocky foundations.

3. Fall singer becomes lunatic on the box.

2. Proustian detective agency from the 80s.

1. Where Richard met Judy... after you left.

I'm Coming Out again tomorrow morning to bring you the answers...

Friday 23 November 2018

The United Kingdom of Song #12: Lochaber, Sutherland, Lewis, Skye, Bathgate, Linwood, Methil, Irvine and Wester Ross

Back to Scotland today, and a variety of locations all in the same song.

We start in the Highlands, in Lochaber - the inspiration for a traditional folk song from 1760: Lochaber, No More. (Well, there's a big clue if you've not yet worked out today's song.)

Joe Strummer's mum came from Sutherland, and the village of Durness apparently inspired John Lennon to write In My Life. (The Sutherland Brothers are both from Aberdeenshire.)

Donald Trump's mum came from The Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. (I recommend listening to Karine Polwart's thoughts on that... a track I'm sure to be featuring again soon.) Anyway, we can't blame Lewis for Trump. Instead, take a listen to Iain Morrison, a famous musical son who delivered a couple of excellent records I picked up after hearing them on Radio Scotland earlier this year (Amusement Arcade & 3 A.M.). You should start with Let's Go Captain, one of my songs of the year. Give it till at least 1 minute 10 seconds before you make up your mind.

(Also on Lewis is Stornoway... there's a very fine band called Stornoway... but they're from Oxford.)

Skye... well, I'm sure we'll come back to Skye one day.

Leaving the Highlands behind for a while, Bathgate is only half an hour from Edinburgh. David Tennant comes from Bathgate, along with the band Goodbye, Mr. Mackenzie.

Linwood, on the other hand, is just stone's throw from Glasgow. (If you can throw a stone 15 miles.) I can't find anybody famous from Linwood.

The artist Jack Vettriano came from Methil in Fife though. I like his style.

Nicola Sturgeon comes from Irvine, along with the lead singer of Biffy Clyro, and Roddy Woomble of Idlewild. Edgard Allen Poe apparently went to school there for a while.

All of which brings us back to the Highlands, and the very first location mentioned in this song... the National Scenic Area of Wester Ross, which crops up in the song Kishorn Commandos by North Sea Gas.

However, there is... of course... one famous song which mentions all these fine locations.

And here it is...

I suppose we better go to Wales next week, just in case any Welsh readers (I'm not sure I have any Welsh readers, but maybe this is why) feel left out. We'll go camping while we're there, shall we?

Wednesday 21 November 2018

2018 Contenders: Thoughts For The Day

Now a dog cannot imagine
What it is to drive a car
And we, in turn, are limited
By what it is we are

We are dogs in our own paradise
In a theme park all our own
Doggie dancers doing duty
Doggie dreaming all day long

I'll say this about the new album by David Byrne: there is most definitely water at the bottom of the ocean.

A cockroach might eat Mona Lisa
The Pope don’t mean shit to a dog
And elephants don’t read newspapers
And the kiss of a chicken is hot

Tuesday 20 November 2018

Hot 100 #57

Roger Daltrey illustrates this week's entry in our countdown - 57 Varieties, from The Who Sell Out.

There was an obvious answer this week, and a less obvious answer: both came from the same artist... who most of you will be aware is a favourite of mine. Which song did I choose? Wait and see. In the meantime, a few alternatives from you guys...

The Swede suggested Banging on the Door by PiL, for another Heinz-related reference...

This lot are not happy heroes, just better actors,
A hundred and one dilations, and fifty seven varieties,
Outside with the empties, keep banging the door...

He also offered Waltz 57 by minimal electronic duo Swod, from their 2004 album 'Gehen'. And of course, you lost me at "minimal electronic duo".

Lynchie popped up next with the following...

1957 by Milo Greene is quite pleasant.

Yes, it is.

Biffy Clyro - 57 on the other hand is a mess.

Yes, it is. They might as well have worn "We wanna be Nirvana!"

Lynchie adds...

I always thought he was called Biffy Giro, until I saw him on BBC Scotland's Hogmanay show.

Biffy Giro would be a better band name.

Lynchie's final suggestion would have been a serious contender most other weeks...

Back in 1957
We had to dance a foot apart
And they hawk-eyed us from the sidelines
Holding their rulers without a heart...

...words which any prepubescent boy or girl born before 1963 can identify with.

Indeed. Scary times... why do I find myself longing for that innocence again?

C turned up next, to offer something she confessed "wasn't the sort of song I'd normally nominate but it must surely be a contender..."

Walking 'round the room singing
Stormy Weather
At 57 Mt. Pleasant Street

Can't argue with that. 

Finally, Martin did his usual crack investigative job and came up with a couple of belters...

I can see Elvis, skinny like he was back in '57.

...and Firecracker by Sleeper, which has:

57 kids, and all of them ugly...

So, then: the winner. Most of you seemed to think I'd choose 57 Channels (And Nothing On) which is certainly a fine tune, even though it comes from Bruce's fallow period in the 90s.

For me though, this is even better. From his second album (his first with the E Street Band), this 8 minute epic points the way to Born To Run both in its length and its storytelling. It also contains what is for me one of the best lines Bruce ever wrote - or at least, one of those lines that pops into my head all the time and has done throughout my life...

"Johnny, it falls apart so easy and you know hearts these days are cheap"

There are certain lyrics that do that in my head. They've almost become part of my internal idiolect. (Other lines from Bruce that do the same thing are "if you can take a man's life for the thoughts that are in his head" from Johnny 99 and the lines at the top of the page from No Surrender. Plus most of Born To Run & Thunder Road.)

Anyway, with apologies to 90s Bruce... 70s Bruce will always win in my book...

Next week... 56? I can sense a Nobel Prize winning suggestion, but beyond that it's a pretty open playing field...

Monday 19 November 2018

Radio Songs #49 - The Ghost (Part 3)

A Racks Room (not the one mentioned below)

The more I write about this section of my radio story, the harder it gets. Because I know what my reaction would be to the things I'm describing when it comes to "the ghost"... if I hadn't been there and seen / experienced it myself, I would have been sceptical at the very least, dubious... maybe I'd even think the person telling me the story had somehow lost some credibility in my eyes. Perhaps you feel the same.

I almost feel like skipping the major events because of this. But I've started now, so I may as well finish. Let's get on with The Racks Room then.

There were four studios in the station. Studio A was the main on-air studio. Studio B was used for the station's AM service, but only a couple of live shows a day came from there, the rest came from another station. Studio C was comprod - commercial production - where I'd spend much of my later radio career. And then, in the middle of them all, was the room where I sat and answered the phones. MCR. The Master Control Room. Makes it sound very fancy, but it was just another studio. Its central position made it ideal for controlling or supporting the other two on-air studios. It was also the studio that news readers often read live local bulletins from, although there weren't any of those at night time.

There were two ways into MCR. The main corridor led down one side of Studio A. That was the corridor I often saw someone walking down when I was in Studio A alone on a Saturday night, driving the Love Zone. It was always out of the corner of my eye because the desk didn't face the corridor, you were side on to that window. But I wasn't the only one who saw movement in that corridor. The phone-in presenters would often report it - sometimes buzzing through on the talkback and either telling me, "Someone's coming," or asking me, "Who's that?" Sometimes somebody did arrive. One of my colleagues calling in for a chat or to ask me to do something for them. More often than not no one arrived. Because there was no one else in the building.

In MCR then, there were three windows. One, facing forward into Studio A. One to the left, Studio B (most often empty at night time). One to the right, Studio C (always empty at night). There were also two doors - the one from the corridor I've just described, and another door into Studio C. (Studio B couldn't be accessed directly from MCR, you had to walk all the way around Studio A.) But there was another way in and out of Studio C. A back way. This led past The Racks Room.

This was the room where the studio audio was processed before being sent to the transmitter. It was full of large, quietly humming machines. This was the pre-digital age; I imagine nowadays the Racks Room probably fits comfortably inside one pc the size of a matchbox. There were all kinds of other machines in the Racks Room too. I never understood most of them. All I knew was that I didn't like going in there, certainly not alone, and certainly not at night.

There was a passage that led from Studio C, past the Racks Room, straight to entrance of the building. If I had to go that way at night, I'd hurry - sprint. There was something wrong about that room. It never felt right. It got really cold and really creepy and sometimes I couldn't even go that way. One night I turned towards Studio C and saw a white figure walking straight towards me. I screamed and they were gone. I couldn't tell you what they looked like, the details were vague at the time and haven't stayed in my head 20 years later. Possibly it was just a reflection or a trick of the light. I didn't think that then, but I could probably convince myself of it now.

For a long while after that, I couldn't even work in MCR. I started answering the phones in Studio B. I kidded myself I was safer in there...

If anyone's expecting me to play Rush - Spirit of Radio now, you'll have to wait. That may seem an obvious choice, but the lyrics aren't about ghosts at all, and that song will be much better suited to another chapter of my radio saga. Instead, here's some Tom Petty. You can't go wrong with Tom...

Sunday 18 November 2018

Saturday Snapshots #59 - The Answers

It's so funny how we don't talk anymore... until you want the answers to Saturday Snapshots. But you all did very well again this week, so... Congratulations!

I think Alyson took this one, though Chris & Walter both did sterling work on some of the tougher ones while Charity Chic kept the flag flying for his home country, Rigid Digit corrected Alyson (and himself) and C was happy with #3, which really should have been 7. Lynchie must have had a lie in this week...

10. Fishy lady needs litmus paper.

Emma Pollock - Acid Test

9. What Ernie writes on his best friend's Christmas present may help Juliet breathe more easily.

Ernie writes 'For Bert' on his Christmas presents.

Tunes help you breathe more easily.

Juliet would happily share a Tune with Romeo.

Steve Forbert - Romeo's Tune

8. Scout's reclusive neighbour needs an alarm clock.

In To Kill A Mockingbird, Scout's reclusive neighbour was Boo Radley.

The Boo Radleys - Wake Up, Boo!

7. After Gill lazed, she complained about the weather.

"After Gill lazed" is an anagram.

Took a while to get to this one: I think we went through every weather-related Ella song in the process...

Ella Fitzgerald - Stormy Weather

6. "There's no place like home." That'll get in your eyes.

"There's no place like home," is what Dorothy said in The Wizard of Oz when she was trying to get back home to Kansas.

Hilarious video alert!

Kansas - Dust In The Wind

5. I'm going to dance like Elvis to my stolen Bobby Goldsboro record.

Elvis got in trouble for swaying his hips too much when he was dancing.

Bobby Goldsboro sang Honey.

Hipsway - The Honey Thief

4. They're gonna shoot Van Morrison.

Van Morrison sang about the Bright Side of the Road.

The Killers - Mr. Brightside (or it could have been Kansas: 30 years later)

3. Santa brings crap presents for squares.

L7 - Shitlist (work that one out for yourselves)

2. Ice cream for a Tiny Dick?

I make no apologies.

Little Richard - Tutti Frutti

1. Paying the cheque makes me feel old and dried up. Plus, it's raining.

The bill leaves me feeling withered.

(Yes, CC, I resisted the "duck in a microwave" gag. Too obvious.)

By the way, Bill Withers was a genius. (Still is, I guess, but he knew to quit while he was ahead, which makes him smarter than most.)

Get Wired For Sound again next Saturday morning. Move It and be here first to snap up all the easy ones!

Saturday 17 November 2018

Saturday Snapshots #59

Tommy used to work on the docks... but he soon packed that in when he discovered Saturday Snapshots. You know the deal by now - solve the ten clues below, artist and song title. They're all Wanted: Dead or Alive.

Keep The Faith!

10. Fishy lady needs litmus paper.

9. What Ernie writes on his best friend's Christmas present may help Juliet breathe more easily.

8. Scout's reclusive neighbour needs an alarm clock.

7. After Gill lazed, she complained about the weather.

6. "There's no place like home." That'll get in your eyes.

5. I'm going to dance like Elvis to my stolen Bobby Goldsboro record.

4. They're gonna shoot Van Morrison.

3. Santa brings crap presents for squares.

2. Ice cream for a Tiny Dick?*

1. Paying the cheque makes me feel old and dried up. Plus, it's raining.

(*Oh, like you wouldn't have used that clue. Don't pretend otherwise.)

I'll Be There For You with the answers tomorrow morning. Until then... Have A Nice Day.

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