Monday 31 January 2022

2021 Latecomers: Bills

My electricity's been off most of the weekend after Storm Malik knocked over a power pole near our house and plunged us into darkness. This helpfully occurred on the very weekend Louise was going out with friends on Saturday night, and I'd been looking forward to having sole custody of the remote control. Instead, I spent the evening watching a tiny video on my phone in the cold, by candlelight, before the power briefly blipped back on, then it cut out again and stayed off for most of Sunday. It's amazing the things you take for granted, like heat and a kettle and warm food & water... I couldn't even do my ironing.

As I write this, late Sunday night, the power is back on... but Storm Corrie is currently raging outside. No offence to people called Malik or Corrie, but you'll know they've run out of names when Storm Rol rolls into town.

Bill 'Smog' Callahan and Bonnie Prince Billy made a record together late last year, and it's a huge 19 track affair with guest contributions from a bunch of other people, most of whom I've never heard of... though as long as Mr. Callahan is involved, I'm happy. 

Here they are together with Bill Mackay and a sublime take on Steely Dan's Deacon Blues. The video clocks in at 4:50; the album version adds another two and a half minutes, but they could have carried on all day for me...

Sunday 30 January 2022

Snapshots #225: A Top Ten Songs That Mention Other Bands In The Title

Here are this week's answers... Cheers!

There are loads of song that mention other singers (solo artists) in their titles. I'm sure we'll have a Snapshots or two that will connect some of them in the future. But I had a devil of a time finding songs that mention other bands in the title. Well done if you worked out the connections, although hopefully the extra photos helped... and a late night / early morning guest appearance from Brian to get the ball rolling.

10A. Solo insult from a Princess.

Princess Leia called Han Solo a "Nerf Herder".

10B. Van Halen

Nerf Herder - Van Halen

9A. Major Nathan Chin.


9B. The Velvet Underground

Jonathan Richman - The Velvet Underground

8A. Stubby marsupials.

Sounds like a bunch of wombats to me.

8B. Joy Division

The Wombats - Let's Dance To Joy Division

7A. Howling procession.

Wolf parade!

7B. Fine Young Cannibals

Wolf Parade - Fine Young Cannibals

(Credit where it's due: Ben gave me that one. It's a cool tune though. For a Ben recommendation.)

6A. Dusty MC Oldness.


6B. Daft Punk (Yes, that is what Daft Punk look like under their helmets.)

LCD Sound System - Daft Punk Is Playing At My House

5A. He's crackers!

Clearly he's half a man and half a biscuit.

5B. Styx

Half Man Half Biscuit - Styx Gig (Seen by My Mates Coming out of a...)

4A. The True USA.


4B. The Rubettes

The Auteurs - The Rubettes

Those are some tight pants.

3. Nervous, sad celebrities.

They're stars, but they're blue. And trembling.

3B. Abba

Trembling Blue Stars - Abba On The Jukebox

2A. Four kibbles.

Anagram! (I knew CC would get this one... with a little encouragement.)

2B. Fountains of Wayne

Robbie Fulks - Fountains Of Wayne Hotline

(Robbie Fulks loves FoW, by the way. He's not taking the piss. He genuinely appreciates their skills with a catchy riff. Rightly so.)

"Oh, that Gerald..." always makes me chortle.

1A. Courtney's home!

Where does Courtney Love live? D'oh.

1B. The Beatles meeting The Stones

The House of Love - Beatles & Stones

Come back to where everybody knows your name... even if they don't know all the answers... next Saturday.

Saturday 29 January 2022

Saturday Snapshots #225

"What came first, the music or the misery? People worry about kids playing with guns, or watching violent videos, that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands, literally thousands of songs about heartbreak, rejection, pain, misery and loss. Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?"

Something to ponder this morning while you crunch your cornflakes. Alternatively, you could try your hand at this week's Snapshots. The format's a little different this week, but I'm saying no more than that. I'm sure you'll figure it out...

10A. Solo insult from a Princess.


9A. Major Nathan Chin.


8A. Stubby marsupials.


7A. Howling procession.


6A. Dusty MC Oldness.


5A. He's crackers!


4A. The True USA.


3. Nervous, sad celebrities.


2A. Four kibbles.


1A. Courtney's home!


"Now, the making of a good compilation tape is a very subtle art. Many do's and don'ts. First of all you're using someone else's poetry to express how you feel. This is a delicate thing." A bit like making a Snapshots quiz. 

Delicate or not, the answers will be here tomorrow...

Friday 28 January 2022

Marvin Lee (Part 3)

I've read a fair few obits over the past few days that were written by people who clearly weren't actually Meat Loaf fans, or who are rather embarrassed to admit that they were. (Or, as Rigid Digit pointed out, were suddenly trying to reclaim him after years of indifference.)

I like to kid myself that I stopped trying to convince other people to love the same music I love many years ago... but really, isn't that one of the reasons we music-blog in the first place? I've always acknowledged that I'm fighting a losing battle against the musos and the Cool Police when it comes to Meat though. Doesn't mean I have to stop trying.

One of the most egregious falsehoods I've seen repeated over the past few days is that there's no worth to any Meat Loaf album that isn't a collaboration with Steinman. While it's good to see Jim get the respect he so rarely receives from the press, I also find myself bristling, because Meat always put 150% into any song he performed, and some of those non-Steinman tunes really stand up on their own... in any world where they weren't being compared with the best Jim had to offer. 

So here are five great non-Steinman Meat recordings. Are they as good as the best of Meat & Jim together? Of course not, but they easily stand their ground against many other classic rock tunes of the past forty years. These are the ones that came obviously to mind... ten would have required a little more digging.

5. Martha

The Tom Waits tune, given the Surf's Up piano ballad treatment. Waits purists might hate it... but I'm a Waits purist myself, and I love it. It takes all sorts.

4. Midnight At The Lost And Found

Meat and Jim were on the outs when this contractual obligation album was released, and it isn't a great one. (Meat claims Jim had written both Total Eclipse and Making Love Out Of Nothing At All, but management and the record company were also fighting with Jim at that point and refused to pay him. 

Despite all that, I've always had a great fondness for the title track... maybe because for many years, I actually thought it was a Steinman tune. The song itself might not stand up to comparison, but Meat gives it 110% as always, and makes me love it.

3. I'd Lie For You (And That's The Truth)

Following the success of Bat II, the record company couldn't persuade Jim to keep playing ball. Instead, they shelled out for Diane Warren, queen of the power ballad, and told her to do her best impersonation of Jim. She certainly gave it a good shot with the title... though once you've compared the tune to If I Could Turn Back Time or Don't Want To Miss A Thing, you may come to realise she's something of a one trick pony. Still, at least the jockey was on top form. 

2. Modern Girl

Written by husband & wife songwriting team Paul Jacobs and Sarah Durkee, otherwise known as ex-National Lampoon collaborators who went on to write songs for Sesame Street and Dora The Explorer. 

That manic glee of their kids TV songs, when turned up to 11, seems the perfect fit for Meat. Modern Girl is everything you want from him... close your eyes, and it might as well be Steinman.

1. Los Angeloser

The least "Meat Loaf" song on this list. Whereas all the others at least try to ape the Steinman-esque pomp, or at least the OTT rock 'n' roll theatrics of Meat's life performance, Los Angeloser ditches all that for something quite unique. A little bit line dance country, a little bit "Gimme Hope Jo'annna", a little bit Nic Cage does Elvis, a little bit Jimmy Swaggart, a whole lot brilliant. Never fails to make me grin from ear to ear...

Thus concludes Meat Loaf week. Rest in peace, good buddy. Thanks for all the years of fun.

Thursday 27 January 2022

2021 Latecomers: Dar Dar Dar

Dar Williams is another artist who is always guaranteed a shot at Top Ten Towers - indeed, I have 7 of her CDs on the shelf, and not a dud among them.

Her latest album, I'll Meet You Here, contains her usual brand of top quality Americana, touching on familiar subjects of small town life, growing old and ecological concern. And her voice is as mesmerising as ever, especially on the closing track which feels like a fine tribute to Joni Mitchell... with added Grumpy Old Woman vibes.

Why is it that as we grow older and stronger
The road signs point us adrift and make us afraid
Saying "You never can win, " "Watch your back, " "Where's your husband?"
Oh, I don't like the signs that the sign makers made.

Wednesday 26 January 2022

Marvin Lee (Part 2)

Last April, when his longtime friend and collaborator Jim Steinman died, Meat Loaf gave an emotional interview to Rolling Stone in which he concluded:

"I don’t want to die, but I may die this year because of Jim. I’m always with him and he’s right here with me now. I’ve always been with Jim and Jim has always been with me."

At the time, I wrote my own tribute, My Top Ten Jim Steinman Songs, although only 7 of them were recorded by Meat himself. A couple were Steinman solo (one, a spoken word track that also cropped up on Bat Out Of Hell II) and the other was Total Eclipse of the Heart, which was written for Meat, but for one reason or another ended up with Bonnie.

Anyway, that Top Ten only really scratched the surface. So here's another Ten great Meat/Jim collaborations...

Braver Than We Are, the long-awaited Meat/Jim reunion of 2016, was a treat for fans, though neither man was at his best. Meat's voice was long past its best and Jim had been struggling with health issues for years. But it was still great to see them make one more record together, and this track even brought back both Ellen Foley (the original Bat Out Of Hell female vocalist) and Karla Devito (who took Ellen's role in the tours and those iconic videos). The full length track is 11 minutes long (of course!) but the link above is to the edited video version. 

One of many songs recorded on Jim's ill-regarded (still much loved in this household) solo album, though it was originally written for Meat, whose voice just wasn't up to it at that time. 

I may never be able to answer the question of which is my favourite song called Surf's Up, this or the one Brian Wilson penned. I'm sure that's a much easier choice for the rest of you.  

Much mocked, full of 90s excess on top of the usual Steinman pomp and circumstance, and the fact that it dominated the singles chart in 1993 causes many to lump it in the same category as Bryan Adams' Robin Hood song. Perhaps its ubiquity has even rubbed off on me, since I never place it among my favourites from the terrible twosome, and maybe it's one of the few examples of a Steinman tune where the single edit is better than the full version... at least that doesn't cut the most typically Steinman lyric of all, "Will you hose me down in Holy Water if I get to hot?" That line alone is worth the price of admission. And anyone who tells you that Meat never reveals what it is that he won't do for love clearly hasn't listened to the lyrics.

Jim understood better than anyone that teenage angst was best expressed through hyperbole and, yes, even cliche. All-Revved Up is a song about pent up teenage lust, and Meat could play the role of frustrated teenager loser better than anyone this side of Jilted John. Edgar Winter blows the hell out of that sax too.

I was nothing but a lonely boy
Looking for something new
And you were nothing but a lonely girl
But you were something
Something like a dream come true
I was a varsity tackle and a hell of a block
When I played my guitar
I made the canyons rock but
Every Saturday night
I felt the fever grow
Do ya know what it's like
All revved up with no place to go

And then you get Roy Bittan on piano!

"I’ve never told this story, but Jim is gone now and it’s time: We had finished the demos in 1975 when he called me one night. He said, “There’s this guy down here at the Bottom Line.” He didn’t even say “Bruce Springsteen.” It was just “a guy.” This is 11 p.m. at night. He said, “There’s a guy doing what we do down here at the Bottom Line. You have to come down and see the second show.” I said, “Jim, I’m not going to come down there in the middle of the night.”

I didn’t go. Jim stayed for both shows. And Jim thought that [E Street Band keyboardist] Roy Bittan was legitimate. I guess Jim liked Springsteen. He felt Roy Bittan was one of the best piano players in the world and he wanted him on this record. He said, “This guy is better than me.”

"What Barry Manilow didn’t understand is that you can’t just have a great voice and sing a Jim Steinman song. You have to become a Jim Steinman song. You have to be the song. You don’t singthe song. You are the song."

Lyrically, starts out as a very Manilow song. Not the way Meat sings it, of course. And then it builds and builds, in that typical Steinman fashion of keeping building even after he runs out of bricks. That's the other thing about these songs: you need a colossal pair of lungs to get through them in one piece. 

Maybe higher than it deserves to be, one of the lesser lights from Bat Out Of Hell II, but this song for me sums up both Meat and Jim in one crystal clear lyrical metaphor. Nothing succeeds like excess.

"I sang every song we ever did in character. I left me. I was not method. I didn’t have to find something in my past life to be able to sing his songs.  I became the song and he saw the ability for me to become the song."

What a performance. 

I'm tired of words and I'm too hoarse to shout
But you've been cold to me so long
I'm crying icicles instead of tears

Who else could have sung lyrics as overblown as those and made them real? The very essence of rock 'n' roll. And this was the song that broke them too...

"A [radio station] program director in Buffalo, New York named Sandy Beach put it on [the playlist] because in “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad” there’s the line, “you’ll never find gold on a sandy beach.” 

1. For Crying Out Loud

"I will argue with anyone that wants to argue with me on this point: I dare them. “Crying Out Loud” is the best love song in history.  Please come and argue with me on this point. I’ll take you down every time."

I'm not going to argue with Meat. I reckon he could still take me down, even from beyond the grave.

I'm not done yet, in case you were wondering / praying... 

Tuesday 25 January 2022

Conversations With Ben #25: The Horror!

Rol sends Ben the article above.

Ben: I think that makes me hate him even more because he's just thrown the rest of his band under a bus.

Once again it's all about him.

Rol: Not to mention disrespecting their entire fanbase.

(Still, more points for Robert Palmer though.)

I was having a pleasant evening.

Now I'm really wound up.

Just watched the first two episodes of Archive 81 on Netflix.

Pretty good so far.

Is that out? I read about it a while back. Not sure I'll be able to persuade Louise to watch it. How scary is it? How "real"? She can cope with fantasy horror like Midnight Mass, but not stuff that looks too real anymore...

Not scary. More like a creepy thriller mystery. Just come out. Very real.

Hmm. I'll see if I can trick her into watching it.

I went to get my haircut today. Had to find a new hairdresser now I'm no longer in Barnsley. Drove past a shop on the way home from Leeds with an old guy cutting hair, immediately thought: he's my guy. 

He didn't let me down. It was like having my hair cut by one of the Last of the Summer Wine cast. He kept making sweeping sexist statements, of the "will your tea be on the table when you get home?" kind, and then he told me a lengthy story about a rag and bone man who kept a donkey in his kitchen, and another about a guy he knew who had no brakes in his car, so if he gave you a lift, he would slow down by sticking his feet out the door.

I'm definitely going back there.

Was your tea on the table?

Pak choi?

With miso and udon?

My tea was in the dog.

And we only have cats.

Did the barber make a joke about Chinese food there?

You'll be disappointed to hear that he made no racist remarks at all.

Not all bigots are into everything.

I bow to your superior knowledge of bigotry.

I think you need to read the anti racist baby book again.

Is the baby meant to be singing a song and doing an interpretive dance there?

Kate Bush's choreographer?

I'm going to buy you a copy for your birthday.

I already have enough books I can't get through.

Thoughts on Yard Act?

I can't decide whether I like them or not.

Their new album is out and I still can't decide.

Never heard of them. Wait a minute...

I see what you mean. Can't decide if they deserve more of my attention or if he's just a bad stand up character.

Yeah, that's exactly it. I sit down with it but go back and forth whether it's good or not.

And he reminds me of Mr. C. from The Shamen.

I got a new badge at work today.

Still using your Witness Protection name when you teach, I see.

They'll never find me.

Plus, it keeps the kids from googling my blog.

They managed to make your forehead both smaller and larger at the same time.

And look at you rocking an under t-shirt!

I wear under t-shirts all the time in the summer. Never been a vest man.

Is it like starting a new identity at a new school?

It's a chance to reinvent myself.

I persuaded Louise to watch the first Archive 81. She just about made it through.

How much did they pay you to play Samuel?

(The actor in the green top looks exactly like Ben. In case you were wondering what he looks like.)

£12.50 and a Lion Bar.

Need to fire my agent.

Can't even eat the Lion Bar since it's got dairy in it.

And lions.

They stopped that back in the 80s.

Bloody PC brigade!

Huh. Next you'll be telling me the same applies to Penguins.

World gone mad.

They've always used imitation penguins, like crab sticks.

Shut up.

Hopefully now we're out of the bloody EU we can get back to being great and using the real thing again.

And none of those shite metric measurements.

I want seven quibwongs to a yard again.

(Do you mean a yard act?)

I'm looking forward to breaking my teeth on a post-Brexit Double Decker.

As we move away from the EU food and drink directive, we can enjoy moving towards the US FDA style FREEDOM Res restrictions.

You will soon be able to enjoy 100% naturally synthetic nougat style chew.

All natural, obviously.

Which in the US is legally a marketing term and has no basis in natural ingredients.

I'm looking forward to everyone eating those little compressed astronaut meals.

They contain real food. You won't be getting them.

Just seen the new Scream film. It's very good.

Please tell me Courtney Cox dies this time.

Sorry. Ghostface appears before the film and tells us we can't tell anybody anything about it or he'll come for us.

In that case....

Please tell me Courtney Cox dies this time.

I'll be right back...

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