Sunday 31 January 2021

Saturday Snapshots #174 - A Top Ten Thief Songs

The internet would have you believe that this is a photo of Keanu Reeves stealing a camera from a paparazzi and legging it. Apparently, that's not what happened... but it still seems an appropriate image to accompany this week's answers, given that they represent...


10. Learning to read on the hifi.

Phonics is the system used to help kids read these days. "Never had 'em when I was a kid and I read fine, etc. etc."

Another word for hifi is your stereo. 

Stereophonics - The Bartender & The Thief

9. Saltwater dynamite.

Teardrops are saltwater (according to Julian Lennon, anyway).

Dynamite explodes.

The Teardrop Explodes - Thief of Baghdad

8. A fop perturbs.


(Yes, that is Paddy McAloon.)

Prefab Sprout - The Best Jewel Thief In The World

7. What made Elvis the Pelvis?

Swaying hips, of course!

Hipsway - The Honeythief

(See, CC - I had been listening to it recently!)

6. Have you got the stomach for this?

Belly - Thief

5. Over abundant.

INXS - Listen Like Thieves

4. A younger android, but still paranoid (almost).

Marvin was the paranoid android. 

Junior Murvin - Police & Thieves

3. Charming.

Prince Charming, obviously.

Prince - Thieves In The Temple

2. Is that... a fake lager, Rhys?

"A fake lager, Rhys" is an anagram of...

Feargal Sharkey - You Little Thief

Still one of the greatest intros of the 80s.

1. Expensive.

Cher is expensive in French, not just dear.

And "I was born in the wagon of a travelling show" is a hell of an opening line.

I'll be back next Saturday to steal more of your time...

Saturday 30 January 2021

Saturday Snapshots #174

If you're thinking of taking the Chevy to the Levy this Saturday morning, I have two warnings for you.

1) The Levy is dry.

2) The police are probably waiting there to prosecute you for going out without proper reason.

Far safer to stay home and play the NEW Saturday Snapshots.

Remember, the clues below are only to the artists. But all the songs are connected. Work out the connection and you can work out the songs. Easy! 

10. Learning to read on the hifi.

9. Saltwater dynamite.

8. A fop perturbs.

7. What made Elvis the Pelvis?

6. Have you got the stomach for this?

5. Over abundant.

4. A younger android, but still paranoid (almost).

3. Charming.

2. Is that... a fake lager, Rhys?

1. Expensive.

I'll Fletch you the answers tomorrow morning...

Thursday 28 January 2021

Positive Songs For Negative Times #38: The Light At The End Of The Tunnel

It's been a quieter week at work than usual, and I've actually managed to get done some of the basic jobs that are involved with being a teacher. Basic jobs like marking, resource development and tracking progress. The things I've felt guilty for letting myself fall behind on over the past few months while struggling to keep my head above water with nonsense like Quality Reviews, hitting inflated enrolment targets, and arguing with senior management about why 17 year olds who don't want to study English at the best of times might be avoiding turning on their home computers to log into online lessons during lockdown when there are a million other things they'd rather be doing and very little we can threaten them with if they don't. 

As I said, I've spent the last few months feeling guilty about falling behind on the basics... until this week, when I finally got some time to start catching up... only to end up feeling guilty that I wasn't devoting my time to the aforementioned nonsense instead. It truly is a no-win situation.

As for lockdown... before Christmas, it actually felt as though there was a light at the end of the tunnel. 

Now though...

Well, we both grew up in Eyam 
And strange as it may seem
Neither of us thought we'd ever leave 
But the beak in Leek is weak
And she's moved in, so to speak, 
With featureless TV producer Steve

And now it's all Eva Cassidy and aphids in Picardy
And so I can only ascertain..

That the light at the end of the tunnel is the light of an oncoming train

Wednesday 27 January 2021

Mid-Life Crisis Songs #56: Stretchy Pants


I got some new jeans the other day. I don't buy clothes until the old ones have fallen apart, but the last time I bought jeans, I finally gave in and went up a size. There's no going back from that, is there? Not in the current climate, anyway.

But the latest jeans are even worse. Not only are they a size up, but they have an elasticated waist. Now Louise claims this is quite normal, that jeans these days often come with a certain amount of stretchiness to give them more flexibility in the joints, and I have no real objection to that since I hate when jeans tear at the knees. The last thing I want is to look trendy. And sure enough, when I checked, they're 1% elastene.

(I struggled to read the small print on the label, but I'm blaming it on the light. My ears are long gone, I need to cling onto my eyesight for a little while longer yet.)

Still, a stretchy waistline seems like opening the dam gates... 

Willie Nelson releases his 71st studio album in a few weeks time (well, he's only 87), and it's a collection of Frank Sinatra covers. If they're all as good as this, then we're in for a treat...

Tuesday 26 January 2021

2020 Latecomers: Sex On The Radio

So there's a TV show on Netflix called Sex Education. I haven't watched it, despite the fact that it features Gillian Anderson. Then again, I haven't watched The Crown either, despite the fact that also features Gillian Anderson. The very idea of her playing Margaret Thatcher break my heart... and stamps on other parts of my anatomy too.

Louise has watched Sex Education though. Make of that what you will. The other day, she was listening to the soundtrack when I recognised a familiar voice...

Yes, it's our old pal Chip 'Wild Thing' Taylor. Perhaps not the first person you'd imagined to be featured in the soundtrack to a hip, yoof-oriented Netflix show... nor the first person you'd imagine to find covering a song by Regina Spektor about listening to Guns 'n' Roses. Despite all those facts... this is a belter.

Monday 25 January 2021

Conversations With Ben #1: James Hetfield & The News... and Sting



I'm thinking of starting a feature on the blog called Conversations With Ben. 

Part of me doesn't want to tell you this because I don't want you acting up for the cameras, but I figure it's pretty sleazy to not ask your permission, and also you might sue me for using your intellectual copyright or something.

Since your guest post, most people are convinced I made you up anyway.


I don't act up for anyone. My wit is and always shall be as sharp as those 70s pencil sharpeners on the teacher's desk that mangled the pencil. Use whatever, I'm not precious about what's said or used. I don't say anything I don't stand behind, and even when joking, there's not enough identifying info out there that people could use to discredit me. So go for it.

As I know you have a penchant for Mr Lewis. It's actually really well done the whole way through...

James Hetfield sees that and realises how his whole life has been a sham. Look at what you could have won...

They could make a new supergroup. Better Be True mixed with Nothing Else Matters.

Well, the News do need a new singer now that Huey has been struck down with Menieres. Which I still consider a tragedy. Meanwhile, Sting is fine.

Is he really, though?

I sat through The Bee Movie with Sam the other day. Awful. Sting had a cameo.

The only adequate thing Sting ever did was be The Face in Quadrophenia. And that was amateurish at best.

My favourite Sting song...

My favourite sting album...

My favourite Sting song...

I'm not sure we're talking about the same Sting.

Sting is more of an idea than a person.

Like the tooth fairy. Or Satan.

Sunday 24 January 2021

Saturday Snapshots #173 - Top Ten Letter Songs


Amazing how just adding a picture of a cat to a post can increase your hits by 150%.

Anyway, this week's answers. And yes, they were all songs about letters...


10. This way up.

The Box Tops - The Letter

9. Heavenly celebrities.

Stars - Elevator Love Letter

8. Alien lands on loch.

ET lands on Moy.

Alison Moyet - Love Letters

7. You're so money, Benny.

"You're so money!" is a line made famous by Vince Vaughan.

Benny is, of course, Hill.

Vince Hill - Love Letters In The Sand

6. Remedy.

The Cure - A Letter To Elise

5. Perturbing scenes.


Bruce Springsteen - Letter To You

4. Imaginary rabbit, goes with Duncan.

The imaginary rabbit was Harvey.

PJ goes with Duncan.

PJ Harvey - The Letter

3. Used for playing this game in Central America, centuries ago. 

The earlier form of Saturday Snapshots used an Aztec Camera.

2. A pal for Scooby Doo and Starsky & Hutch, sits on the dock.

Scooby's pal was Shaggy.

Starsky & Hutch hung out with Huggy,

Put them together with Otis, who sat on the dock...

Shuggie Otis - Strawberry Letter #23

1. Helicopter arms!

Another anagram, obviously.

More next week.  


Saturday 23 January 2021

Saturday Snapshots #173


Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss Saturday Snapshots!

I was a teenager with Ferris Bueller. Now I look like aging Matthew Broderick. Where did the years go?

Remember the new rules... the clues below are to artists. All the songs are connected. Work out the connection, then work out the songs.

Pretty easy this week, I think...

10. This way up.

9. Heavenly celebrities.

8. Alien lands on loch.

7. You're so money, Benny.

6. Remedy.

5. Perturbing scenes.

4. Imaginary rabbit, goes with Duncan.

3. Used for playing this game in Central America, centuries ago. 

2. A pal for Scooby Doo and Starsky & Hutch, sits on the dock.

1. Helicopter arms!

They bought it. Incredible, one of the worst performances of my career and they never doubted it for a second. 

Answers tomorrow.

Thursday 21 January 2021

My Top Ten "Without Phil Spector..." Songs

After completing my Top Ten tribute to the work of Phil Spector on Tuesday evening, I couldn't help but feel like there was something missing. Yes, I'd covered the very best of Spector's own musical output... but what of his legacy? If it hadn't been for his influence, chances are we wouldn't ever have heard any of the songs below... at least not in the way we know and love them.

(As to the photo above, Bruce probably regrets that now almost as much as the ill-advised Ben Affleck goatee.)

10. Cher - Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)

Beginning his career as a gofer for Phil Spector, Sonny Bono went on to emulate his former boss on many of the records he produced later in the 60s.

9. Abba - Waterloo 

Prior to the sessions that produced this, Ring Ring, and other Spector-esque Abba classics, engineer Michael B. Tretow read Richard Williams' book Out of His Head: The Sound of Phil Spector. After that, he layered on the overdubs, and Abba's sound changed forever.

8. Spiritualized - Ladies & Gentlemen, We Are Floating In Space

Jason Pierce = Phil Spector In Space.

7. Wizzard - See My Baby Jive

Roy Wood made no secret of the fact that he was aiming to recreate the Wall of Sound on songs like this one and I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday. The kitchen sink was full utilised.

6. The Jesus & Mary Chain - Just Like Honey

From the opening echo-drenched drumbeats, stolen directly from Be My Baby, there's little doubt that the Mary Chain had been listening to a lot of Phil Spector.

5. The Walker Brothers - The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore

Producers Johnny Franz and Ivor Raymonde set out their stall as the British equivalents to Phil Spector, and this is probably the song that came closest to emulating the Wall of Sound sound. Ironically, it was released in 1966, the same year Spector became demoralised with the music industry following the weaker-than-expected chart performance of his masterpiece, River Deep, Mountain High.  

4. The Shangri-Las - Leader of the Pack

Produced by George 'Shadow' Morton, who aimed to take Spector's sense of melodrama to the next level... and arguably succeeded on tracks such as this and Past, Present & Future. Morton wore a cape in the studio, but - as far as I know - never pulled a gun on anyone.

3. Meat Loaf - Bat Out Of Hell

As much as Jim Steinman stole from Bruce Springsteen, he stole far more from Phil Spector. If Spector created the Wall of Sound, Steinman built another three walls and then a roof on top. Many see this as excess, but it's that very excess that appeals to me in Steinman's work. He might get more respect if he had a little more restraint... but he's all right in my book.

Back in the 90s, record company bosses tried to get Spector to work with Steinman... to produce, of all people, Celine Dion. Spector refused, saying he had no desire to work with, "amateurs, students, and bad clones of yours truly."

Steinman, in typically Steinman-esque fashion, replied, "I'm thrilled to be insulted by Phil Spector. He's my God, my idol. To be insulted by Phil Spector is a big honour. If he spits on me, I consider myself purified."

2. The Beach Boys - Good Vibrations

I'm sure George will have something to say about me placing this at #2, or for choosing it ahead of anything from Pet Sounds, which Brian Wilson described as an "interpretation" of Phil Spector's Wall of Sound production technique. I will freely admit that I consider God Only Knows to be a better song than Good Vibrations (and maybe even my #1)... but God Only Knows doesn't sound as Spectorish to me as this does. 

Brian Wilson created Good Vibrations with the aim of portraying his "whole life performance in one track", telling himself, "This is going to be better than You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling". Spector pulled the song apart, saying there was way too much "tape manipulation" and too many edits for it to be a "beautiful" record.

1. Bruce Springsteen - Born To Run

Well, I'm nothing if not predictable, am I?

Producer Mike Appel explains how Bruce came to him before the recording of Born To Run and said, "I’m trying to meld my lyrics with more Phil Spector-type songs and I’d like to use his production values", which Appel then helped him develop.

 “Phil’s greatest lesson," Bruce later said, "was that sound, sound, sound is its own language.”

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