Wednesday 31 March 2021

Positive Songs For Negative Times #49: The Backbounceability of Humans

Just prior to the easing of lockdown last weekend, we tested the limits of what was "local" in order to take a walk round some (quite) nearby National Trust gardens. We weren't arrested for it, and we got to see the above colourful eggs (along with a brightly painted bench - much more impressive than a Happy Bench - that Sam sat on). It was a mini art installation in the woods, but without pretention, and the pretty colours contrasted well with the early Spring gloom. I say all this to counter yesterday's misanthropy... in case it's not already too late.

As lockdown eases one step back on the roadmap to a brighter future... how are you all doing? I'm still on the verge of a nervous breakdown, but at least I've had half a hair cut. Louise bought some clippers online and shaved the back and sides... but she daren't touch the top. Apparently I now resemble a Peaky Blinder (as long as it's not Tom Hardy) or a slightly younger David Lynch. But I feel better for it. Other than that, not much else to report.

Here's some Norwegian Americana to take your mind off it all. Harald Thune may hail from the Land of the Midnight Sun, but he's got a voice many Nashville musicians would kill for. Don't believe me? Ask the recently retired Kris Kristofferson, who declared: “This guy is good; this guy is really damn good!” 

Harald's latest album is called The Backbounceability of Humans, a very appropriate title for these troubled times. Here's wishing you all a good dose of backbounceability with the lead single, Hello, Trouble!

Tuesday 30 March 2021

Conversations With Ben #10: The Happy Bench

I was out walking with Sam the other day when I came across the "Happy Bench". Something about it really wound me up. Apologies, my reaction below gets a little extreme - but it was for humorous effect. I'm not really the sort of person who would ever consider micturating on public property. Still... I often present the best side of my nature on this blog. Whereas Ben gets the darker side.

(That said, when I posted a picture of the Happy Bench on my facebook feed, I was amazed by how many of my FB friends reacted in a far grumpier way that I did. It's good to know you're not the biggest misanthrope in the room. And that I chose my friends wisely.)

Rol: Well, I won't be sitting here then...

Ben: Or you could rip it off and set it alight at your feet?

Send a strong message.

I pissed on it. Will that do?

Only if you then sit in it. Commit to it.

If I did that, some happy person might come talk to me.

You could start growling? And yipping, like a small dog.

The yip is even more unexpected than a bark.

Flashback to my 20s.

Did you used to be a furry? Get up to a little bit of yipping?

The great dichotomy of my life is how much of it I've spent fighting chronic loneliness... and yet I hate people.

I'm not surprised if you go around pissing on park benches.

I Am Jack's Inflamed Sense of Rejection.

You might want to call a doctor and get that seen to.

What's the best Paul Simon song that's not on Graceland?

Or 50 Ways...

Or Duncan...


All wrong.

Rene and Georgette Magritte.

That's the correct answer.

I was saving that one for the end because there's a gag attached.

Weird name for a dog.

"After The War."

That actually made chuckle.

I've achieved SOMETHING today then.

AC12 ought to investigate Vicky McClure's taste in music...

That is the mixtape of someone who has never made a mixtape in her life.

Or bought a record.


I had a crush on Carol Decker, but still.

Even the "deep cut" by Dead Prez is still their most radio friendly one.

Are you sure the playlist isn't titled "Songs that I like when they come on the radio"?

Exactly. Never bought a record in her life.

Also. I thought it was an unwritten rule you didn't put the Beatles on mixtapes.

Or The Carpenters.

There seems little point in putting together a mixtape of songs everybody knows off by heart, to the point of being sick of them.

I mean, Respect is a classic, but I've heard it too much now.


Deep cuts only.

But there's no Beatles or Carpenters deep cuts.

Same with Nirvana.


I'd put Carpenters on as a palette cleanser after something really out there. And maybe some really early, raw Beatles. I'd never say no to anything. But that playlist is just like they asked the Family Fortunes audience to name ten pop songs from the last 60 years.

Maybe it's a cover up. Maybe she has a huge Gary Glitter and R Kelly collection and doesn't want Hastings to find out.

Acceptable Beatles: Michelle, Mr Postman, Twist and Shout, Here Comes The Sun (covered by Paul Simon).


Are you on crack?

Ma belle.

No one would expect it.

That's why it's perfect.

That or Piggies.

Stop now. I think I'd rather listen to Vicky McClure's mixtape than any more of this.

This is under the assumption that I'd include the Beatles.

I wouldn't.

Never make me a mixtape if you think Michelle has a place in the universe.

I have to know a theme or purpose for the mix.

Here, I made you a Beatles playlist.

Sunday 28 March 2021

Saturday Snapshots #182: A Top Ten Wedding Songs

If anyone knows any reason these answers should not be revealed, let them speak now or forever hold their peace.

10. ET thanks Taylor.

ET, plus "ta"... and James Taylor.

Etta James - Stop The Wedding

9. Dedication! Or... half of it, at least.

Roy Castle was famous for his Dedication

Half of that would be...

Roy C - Shotgun Wedding

8. Irish priest on public transport.

Will you be going on the bus, Ted?

Busted - Crashed The Wedding

7. King's wife in hardback emergency room.

A Book in the ER?

With Priscilla (but not Presley).

Booker T & Priscilla - The Wedding Song

6. Musicians who will help you get around London.

An Oyster card will help you travel in the capital.

The Oysterband - Blood Wedding

5. Like a shadow and a divorcee.

Hank Marvin was a Shadow. Tammy Wynette was a divorcee.

Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell - Sad Wedding

4. Romans grasp my realism hour.

Romans grasp was one anagram... my realism hour was another.

Gram Parsons & Emmylou Harris - $1000 Wedding

3. Decayed mongrel on the loose!

"Decayed mongrel" was an anagram.

Godley and Creme - Wedding Bells

That's the first time I've ever seen the video to that. I will have nightmares.

2. No longer southerners.

Dixie, no more.

The (Dixie) Chicks - White Trash Wedding

1. I'm feeling bodily ill.

Not much of an anagram. Not much of a picture. But the tune is a solid gold classic...

And that's how you do a video, Godley & Creme. You ride a motorbike through a stained glass window! It's the video with everything AND a kitchen sink. An exploding kitchen sink, naturally.

Do you take these Snapshots, to have and to hold, for richer or poorer, till death do you part?

If so, join me back here again next Saturday.

Saturday 27 March 2021

Saturday Snapshots #182

How has your week been. Mine's been pretty awful, well, you know, not the best, I could go into more detail, but I'm sure you wouldn't...

Ahem. Sorry. I'm Rampling. I know. Let's get on with the quiz.

Identify ten artists from the clues below.

The identify the theme that links their records.

Then guess the songs.


10. ET thanks Taylor.

9. Dedication! Or... half of it, at least.

8. Irish priest on public transport.

7. King's wife in hardback emergency room.

6. Musicians who will help you get around London.

5. Like a shadow and a divorcee.

4. Romans grasp my realism hour.

3. Decayed mongrel on the loose!

2. No longer southerners.

1. I'm feeling bodily ill.

That's Charlotte, until the answers tomorrow morning.

Friday 26 March 2021

Positive Songs For Negative Time #48: The Day After

File Carly Pearces in the "One To Watch" file. 

Her new pop-country EP 29 evokes thoughts of Taylor and Kacey, Carrie and Miranda... and a little bit of Dolly and Tammy attitude on the lead track, Next Girl...

But the track that's sticking in my ears at the moment is the closer, Day One, which sounds like a direct sequel to Abba's The Day Before You Came. (Memorably covered by Blancmange, of course.)

Where that song tells of the day before a relationship, this one tracks the days after a break-up... it also makes me wonder what Day One, post coronavirus might be like. With the threat of a Third Wave on the way, that day seems like a distant prospect again now, but, as Carly's song promises us, things do get better... after a while.

Let's hope so anyway.

Thursday 25 March 2021

Radio Songs #70: Side Door

This photo was taken long before I worked at the station, but that side door is very familiar to me. The little kiosk outside was run by a sweet but grumpy guy called Keith. You'd be grumpy if you sat in a tiny box all day long selling sweets and fags and the occasional top shelf magazine*, only locking up for a few minutes if you had to nip into the main building to use the lavvy.

(*A colleague once persuaded the office junior that "Razzle" was the name of a chocolate bar from the 70s, and sent them out to ask Keith if he still stocked them. "They're having you on, pal," was Keith's reply. You'd been sent to HR for that kind of thing these days.)

Through that door, you either went down some steps into the dingy old reception, the presentation offices, and right in the bowels, the studios... or up a flight to the sales office, where I spent many of my latter years writing radio ads.

The name of the station is visible in the photo, and that's the name it had when I first worked there, though they changed it after a couple of years to something trendy, focus-grouped and pointless.

I spent a lot of time going in and out of that door. If I was first in the building, or (more often) last out, I'd have to set the burglar alarm which was just down the steps on the left. I wasn't even out of my teens, but I often had that responsibility given to me.

The building has long since been gutted and turned into trendy flats, but if I could go back now...

Wednesday 24 March 2021

Neverending Top Ten #3.8: N.B.

Louise bought Sam a "Colour Your Own T-Shirt" kit. 

Don't ask me. We never had these in the 70s.

Anyway, he coloured it in. And then, using the same water resistant pen (bearing in mind he knows only slightly more about football than his old man does, and I know nothing), he wrote this on the back...

A junior pedant in training. 

I am very proud right now.

(And even more impressed that a 7 year old knows how to use Nota Bene.)

Here's linus.maybe... Not Another Football Song!

Tuesday 23 March 2021

Conversations With Ben #9: Two Birthdays


Rol: Here's what Louise got me for my birthday.

Ben: Great card. Mrs. Ben's always really great at birthday stuff so yesterday I asked her what would be my worst nightmare birthdays and she answered, "dinner with your family or a surprise party".

She was right.

I can't think of anything worse than a surprise party.

I like being able to leave a party.

To be the subject of a party would be horrible.

That's why Louise & I never got married.

Did you get anything nice?

Hold Steady CD. Coffee. David Gedge book.

Open Door Policy?

Good coffee?

"How I did the Wedding Present"?

Yeah x3.

One of the first bands I was in played a full set of Wedding Present covers once.

I imagine they all sounded pretty much the same.

No way. Jose.

And I think ODP is best Hold Steady album since Stay Positive.

I've only listened to it a couple of times online, but lyrically it has a bit more depth, like his solo stuff.

I can't remember which review but one said that it was only a matter of time before the solo stuff married with THS and it did it in the best way. They're never going to write another Boys and Girls but it's still great.

Expecting bands to live up to previous glories is always a recipe for disappointment.

And the lowest point will always be Finn's first solo album.

Yeah, that was a bit dull. The next two were great though.

His solo albums since that first one have been phenomenal.

Whilst Boys and Girls might be objectively the best, Separation Sunday is my choice.

Best song is and will always be Killer Parties.

Sequestered for me.

He's got a great way of doing that song live.

Does he stand on his head?

No, just runs around doing the airquotes.

Great live band to tick off when it's safe to do so.

I saw them in a tent at a festival many years ago.

Did you come down from Boulder. Maybe eat some mushrooms?

When have you ever known me to Chill Out?

When they flooded you with saline?

Does salt help you chill? I thought it raised your blood pressure.

Maybe that's what they needed. Maybe they flatlined. I don't know. I have no medical experience.

On Sunday, Ben received the above e-card... Click to open the link. 

Thank you. The only way that could have been better is if you swapped out Bolton for lovely Sally Phillips.

Why Sally Phillips? Random.

Because Sally Phillips is the only celebrity I have ever had a crush on. And it grows each and every day.

I hated Michael Bolton when I was younger. I used to quote Denis Leary whenever his name was mentioned. 

(Leary did a routine in the 90s which culminated in the line "Bring me Michael Bolton's head on a stick". The internet has no reference to this though. Maybe I imagined it.) 

It warms the cockles of my heart to see what his career has come to... and yet, I have a grudging respect for him doing that, as it shows he doesn't take himself too seriously.

When I was 12-15 I'd only listen to music that was recommended by Kerrang! And some of the heavier indie on MTV 2. But I had a copy of Leave Right Now by Will Young. And still think it's a great tune to this day. Now I don't have time to hate on people when they're good at what they do. Bolton knows what he is and I dig that he's comfortable with that.

I pretty much just hate Bono and the Gallaghers these days. Everyone else can just carry on with whatever they're doing and I'm happy.

I don't even think U2 like Bono. Adam Clayton writes stuff then fucks off whilst Bono records it.

I also strongly dislike (though not as much as Bono) The Hedge. Purely based on his name.

As much as I hate U2's music, I have a lot of respect for the Edge as a musician. He is very innovative and you can only understand just how good he is when you try to use delay. He's got a mastery over it.

Delay is what we used to use to stop people swearing on the radio. Presumably the Hedge uses it to stop people calling Bono a #@$* all the time.

There's four knobs on a delay pedal: ping (in milliseconds), volume, repeats, and decay. It repeats the notes and you alter how it deals with the input. Quite hard to get properly if using more than a simple scratch delay (think rockabilly).

There's 5 knobs on it if the Hedge is using it.

Some do have more options.

Trying to work out if you missed the joke on purpose.

Well, the Empress pedal has a fair few more...

I got my favourite album on vinyl for my birthday.

Curtis, 1970.

Ah yes, the Tony Curtis solo album. A classic. Not as good as Richard Harris.


Don't diss McArthur Park.

How apt.

He's everything Marvin Gaye wishes he was and everything that reporters claimed What's Going On was.

That's a very muso verdict. I think there's room for both, though Marvin did his best work as a straight pop star rather than when he was trying to be a serious artist.

One of the things I love about Prince is that he exclusively used Boss pedals.

Are you back on this again?

They're a set of solid, well built ones but each one is only at the £100 price point. He was just an excellent musician.

Later that afternoon, Ben received another delivery...

This you?

No, that's Bruce Springsteen. I can understand your confusion.

You know what I mean.

It's less a birthday present than a thank you for helping cling to the tattered remains of my sanity over the last 12 months.

That said, I appreciate there's a certain arrogance or vanity in sending someone a gift you like yourself, and it's a practice full of pitfalls, so I won't be upset if you don't like it.

However, there's a certain amount of vicarious pleasure attached , since I don't have a record player or any vinyl anymore.

Thus ends the sincerity. I'll go back to taking the piss now.

Thank you. I genuinely appreciate it. it's a thoughtful gift and I get the gesture.

Now for my taking the piss response. Wow. Project much?

If it makes you feel any better, you've been a help this year too.

I've actually got a gift for you lying around until the next physical time we were going to catch up. Let me know your new address and I'll send it over.

If it's The Dream of the Blue Turtles, you can keep it.


Monday 22 March 2021

Positive Songs For Negative Times #47: Window Raisin' Granny

Since featuring Midnight Train To Georgia a few weeks back, I've been dipping into the Gladys Knight & The Pips back catalogue, which is where I came across this little ditty, one of the B-sides to Midnight Train (along with a largely superfluous - aren't they always - instrumental of the A-Side).

Window Raisin' Granny is, I'm guessing, semi-autobiographical, written by Gladys and her brother Merald Woodlow Knight, Jr. (Bubba), who I'm guessing takes lead vocals here. I can't find much background info on the interweb, but it makes me smile and very few things do these days. Hence it's a Positive Song...

Sunday 21 March 2021

Snapshots #181 - A Top Ten Silver Songs

Yesterday's link was Silver Songs... so here's Phil!

And here are the answers...

10. Total Landscaping.

9. The only way. Essex, apparently.

8. Rock hard.

Diamonds are very hard rocks.

7. Risk getting muddled up twice when the offers are on.

Muddle up risk and you get Kris, twice, with the Offers On.

6. Lil' Yorkie.

Anagram for...

5. Con charm.

Another anagram...

4. I was born pretty much slap bang in the middle...

According to the interweb, to be part of Generation X, you must have been born between 1965 and 1980. 1972 is pretty much slap bang in the middle of that.

3. Where Band Aid came from.

From the First Aid Kit, of course!

That is gorgeous.

2. Once upon a time, a home for rabbits.

Once upon a time, he was Hutch. (Not Warren.)

1. Donnie's Frank. (Frank, Frank.)

This is Frank, from the movie Donnie Darko. (Is there an echo in here?)

More next week.

Saturday 20 March 2021

Saturday Snapshots #181

Morecame to Saturday Snapshots than ever before... but not all of them were Wise enough to guess the clues.

Identify ten singers from the clues below. Then work out the theme their songs have in common... then guess the songs.

I think it's quite easy this week. But that's easy for me to say! 

10. Total Landscaping.

9. The only way.

8. Rock hard.

7. Risk getting muddled up twice when the offers are on.

6. Lil' Yorkie.

5. Con charm.

4. I was born pretty much slap bang in the middle...

3. Where Band Aid came from.

2. Once upon a time, a home for rabbits.

1. Donnie's Frank. (Frank, Frank.)

What do you think of it so far?

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