Thursday 30 June 2022

2022 Contenders: The Right Song At The Right Time

You know when you're having a bad day, and you switch on the radio and hear a tune that turns it around? It might be an old favourite... or it might be something you've never heard before that speaks directly to you, and sends you scrabbling for a pen to write down the title and the artist for further investigation.

American Aquarium know that feeling... and lead AA-man B.J. Barham has written a song to celebrate it. 

I turn the radio on
And out comes a song I didn't recognize
The way the singer was singing
My heart was connected, I was hypnotized
How can something that I've never heard in my life
Pull me back into the light

To be honest, the video rather over-sells the idea, but it's a great tune despite that. The new American Aquarium album was crowd-funded in just under 2 days. More power to the people!

Wednesday 29 June 2022

Celebrity Jukebox #3: Peter Lorre

"Wondering who else is going to pop up in this series now," said Alyson in last week's comments. "I know of one song where Peter Lorre is mentioned but surely there can't be many more. Maybe time to prove me wrong."

Well, I do like a challenge. And Casablanca was on TV this weekend... though Lorre has a better role in The Maltese Falcon, in my humble opinion. He and Bogie were mates, apparently. 

Let's see if I can find the song Alyson was referring to...

Could it be this?

I would cut my legs and tits off
When I think of Boris Karloff and Kinski
In the dark of the moon
It made me dream of Nosferatu
Trapped on the isle of Doctor Moreau
Oh wouldn't it be lovely

Hang on, Lou. It's Peter Lorre we're looking for, not those guys...

I was thinking Peter Lorre
When things got pretty gory as I
Crossed to the Brandenburg Gate
I was feeling snappy perhaps I'd been napping
As I just ate
A following heart can tear you apart
On a midnight to eight shift
A graveyard romance can only give one chance
As the tombstones weave and breathe

That'll do.

Do you know what? I've never heard that before. But I like it far more than I expected to.

This one, on the other hand, has actually featured on this blog before...

You wake up in the morning and you're feelin' blue
Because Vicki is gone and your money is too
She's more sinister than Peter Lorre
And this is just two of 8 million stories

Probably not the one Alyson was referring to though. Are there any songs actually named after Mr. Lorre? Turn out: yes... this one even has 80 views on youtube!

This one, however, actually comes from my own record collection...

Peter Lorre, Peter Lorre 
He's a brick, he's a brick
You can count on him in trouble 
Even if it's really thick
Any crisis, he'll be there 
Like a little squidgy bear
Peter Lorre, Peter Lorre 
He's a brick

Peter Lorre, Peter Lorre 
Runs a nightclub way downtown
Peter Lorre, Peter Lorre 
Always wears a evil frown
Don't spit on his shoes 
Or mess up his hair
Or he will shoot you dead 
And go back upstairs

A real gentleman
Never bad and never rude
Never mad and never crude
Just like Sydney Greenstreet
Just like Sydney... Green...street
In any crisis he'll be there
Like a little squidgy bear
That's Peter Lorre, not Sydney Greenstreet

You know I'm going to declare that today's winner, don't you? Even though it's not the song Alyson was referring to. Let's call that a worthy runner-up...

On a morning from a Bogart movie
In a country where they turn back time
You go strolling through the crowd like Peter Lorre
Contemplating a crime

Sorry, Alyson!

Tuesday 28 June 2022

Memory Mixtape #19: Video Shop

Compared to a lot of my friends, we didn’t get a video recorder till quite late – probably 1985 or ’86. Not soon enough to record the first series of Moonlighting when it aired, but I taped and kept every episode from the second season on. An even bigger thrill was in store at the weekend...

By the time I was 15, I was regularly baby-sitting on a Friday or Saturday night for my brother or sister’s kids, so a trip to the video shop beforehand was a must. I’d usually grab two or three films: a blockbuster (small ‘b’ – we didn’t get a Blockbuster near us till the 90s), a teen movie (I must have watched Ferris Bueller fifty times before it became available to buy) and the worst 80s horror flick I could find. I worked my way through all the Halloween & Friday The 13th movies and their ilk, developing an abiding love for the slasher movie, though I never really dug Freddie Krueger. I mean, it was all just a dream!

There is no greater symbol of 80s nostalgia than the video rental shop. Within a decade, video had been replaced by DVD, video shops had been replaced by online DVD rental (remember how Netflix started out? DVDs mailed to you in the post!) and within the blink of an eye, we were all swamped with choice fatigue by the streaming platforms. Everything you could ever want to watch available whenever you want to watch it (except when it’s not). Things were so much simpler back in the good old days…

I don’t have anything particularly revelatory to add to this post, no specific anecdotes to illustrate the excitement of a Friday night trip to the video shop, when compared to the mundanity of flicking through endless online options. Still,  this delightful little time capsule from Moxy Früvous, released back in 1993 at the height of the video rental boom (hard to believe, but DVD didn’t come along till 96/97) does the job for me…

Don't be too confused by the little reviews
On the back of the box, just pick up the boxes, all the boxes you can use
The hipedi-hoppest videos in the land
Maybe something foreign, maybe something panned, maybe something formerly banned
Perhaps it's something you can watch with friends, or something that inevitably lends
Itself to shapely curves and bends of exploited women and their friends
Perhaps it's "New York, New York" with Liza Minnelli and Mickey Rourke
No. That's not right... It was Robert Deniro, everyone's favourite video… hero

Monday 27 June 2022

Celebrity Jukebox #2: Ursula Andress

If you can name more than one Ursula Andress role, you're better than me. Still, if you're going to be famous for only one part, at least make it iconic. There's no doubt that Ursula's bikini-clad entrance in Dr. No went down in history... to the point that they even had Daniel Craig parody it in his first Bond film. Which was probably the best bit of any of his films. It was all downhill from there.

Likewise, I knew of only one song that featured the first ever Bond girl... though it turns out she has more than one song named after her. The one I didn't know, mercifully, was this: from a Nu Metal band so obscure, I can't even find them on iffypedia...

Elecktra - Ursula Andress

"Love is a gun..."
That's what she says...
While I'm crying with a gunshot on her bed...
On and oh, she's shooting near to me
And I'm bleeding on her bed
And she doesn't care...
On and oh, she can clean her sheets,
She could erase her head,
With detergent

I'm really hoping that English isn't their native language, otherwise there's no excuse for those lyrics.

Slightly more palatable... but only just... is Ursula's lyrical appearance in the 90s Broadway musical Violet, described as "the story of a young disfigured woman who embarks on a journey by bus from her farm in Spruce Pine, North Carolina, all the way to Tulsa, Oklahoma in order to be healed." I'm guessing it's pretty worthy.

You should ask that preacher for some Ursula Andress legs.

No, I think my legs are fine.

No, but rising outta the ocean in that white Dr. No bikini...

What's a matter wit my legs?

Well, nothing. They're long.

Well why did you bring them up at all?

I bet that's right up George's street.

Ursula also gets a mention in a live album by The Kingston Trio, though it's an intro section, not an actual song. Still, so far this is the winner...

I just chose to sit in my velour overalls and build a Revel kit of Ursula Andress, 
A few glue marks but a good job otherwise...

As for an actual song... I guess this one might just count, from a Brooklyn band described on youtube as "L7 meets the Dandy Warhols"... can't say I find their chosen band name particularly endearing though. 

A beauty queen
A silver screen
Here's your chance go and find her
Let me be your Honey Ryder

But enough of all that. There was one song good enough to get Ursula a starring role in this feature. And the rule is: I only need one. Here's London-based Americana outfit Curse Of Lono, with a stand out track from last year's album People In Cars...

Wo Ho My My, we're sipping margaritas on the back seat
And she's singing to the radio
My My Hey Hey, Honey's just a dream
And she feels like Ursula Andress when she's stoned

Sunday 26 June 2022

Snapshots #246: A Top Ten Diamond Songs

A Diamond Geezer introduce a Top Ten Diamond Songs... though there were quite a few more I didn't have room for in the jewellery box.

10. Flying fast over MacArthur Park, Hadley claims to be Solo.

Jet + (Richard) Harris (who sang MacArthur Park).

Tony Hadley says "Me Han" (Solo).

Or maybe you just recognised their faces.

9. Rhyming kickers.

Hoddle & Waddle, famous for kicking a ball... and for recording this, which is better than I remember it being.

(In my continual quest to find artists who have never featured in Snapshots before, there are no depths I won't plumb.)

8. Lassie, Laika, Mr. Ed.

7. Colorado Beatle.

John was a Beatle. Denver is in Colorado.

6. Hipster friend joins the PTA. 

Ben is my hipster friend. He's not yet joined the Harper Valley PTA.

5. An ivy sunbath.


4. Rowan's bottom.


3. Coyote cries like a baby.

Wile E. Coyote goes Waaah!

2. Surely you can't be serious about that deep sounding fish?

A bassey would be a deep sounding fish... and don't call me Shirley!

1. Al. 

On the other hand, he's happy for you to call him Al.

Paul Simon - Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes

Shine on, you crazy diamonds... at least until next Saturday morning, when the Snapshots will flash again.

Saturday 25 June 2022

Saturday Snapshots #246

Welcome gentlemen, scholars and acrobats to the one and only, truly original Saturday Snapshots!

Identify the ten pop stars below and work out what connects their tunes. The answer is as plain as your nose...

10. Flying fast over MacArthur Park, Hadley claims to be Solo.

9. Rhyming kickers.

8. Lassie, Laika, Mr. Ed.

7. Colorado Beatle.

6. Hipster friend joins the PTA. 

5. An ivy sunbath.

4. Rowan's bottom.

3. Coyote cries like a baby.

2. Surely you can't be serious about that deep sounding fish?

1. Al. 

Answers here tomorrow morning, groovy cats.

Friday 24 June 2022

Celebrity Jukebox #1: Robert Mitchum

In a desperate effort to move this blog away from wall-to-wall misery, self-pity and middle-aged grumpiness, here's a new feature in which I pay tribute to celebrities who have been immortalised in song.

I don't know why I chose to start with Robert Mitchum, other than I wanted the list to be random and he was the first person who popped into my mind. When I was younger, and a huge Humphrey Bogart fan, I never liked Robert Mitchum. I found him rather wooden compared to Bogie: given they both played Philip Marlowe, it was hard not to line them up together. 

In later years though, I grew to appreciate Mitchum's performances more, and I could see why he was considered a very cool dude. In modern times, I felt the same way about Keanu Reeves at first, thinking him a one-note actor (that note being Ted "Theodore" Logan), but over time I developed a lot more respect for him. Like Mitchum, he has real screen presence. And that indefinable cool.

Julian Cope was the first person to immortalise Robert Mitchum in song...

The part in Ryan's Daughter when you lose your wife
I've never seen a more dignified man in my life

But when you start looking for Bob Mitchum songs though, you'll be amazed how popular he is...

"Can I have your autograph?"
He said to the fat blonde actress
"You know I've seen every movie you've been in,
From Paths of Pain to Jewels of Glory
And when you kissed Robert Mitchum
Gee but I thought you'd never catch him"

He said, I want to grow up
And look like Robert Mitchum
And I hope that when I'm gone
There'll be some say that I miss him

Imports and altercations
My faculties on a shoe-string vacation
I settled down on a hurt as big as Robert Mitchum
And listen to Lucinda Williams

But there he'd sit
At his table at the Edgewater Hotel
Wearing his ecclesiastical furs
And lunching with two giggly and none too healthy looking young men
And in his shirt pocket up close to his heart was his autographed picture of Robert Mitchum
Which he no doubt used in an impure way

Solvents glue and heroin she said
I don't want to do that at all
I took her to see Robert Mitchum in
Night of the Hunter

Shelley Winters has a vision of
Righteousness from up above
She trades her children for the love
Of a preacher with a soul decay

Before we get onto this week's winning tune, it's worth remembering that Mr. Mitchum had a short-lived musical career of his own... and I'm guessing a certain Mr. B. Springsteen might be aware of it...

Now I can't guarantee that every week I'll find quite so many songs about one celebrity... I'm sure there are plenty with only one to their name. But when I first thought about starting with Robert Mitchum, this was the song I knew I'd finish with. Because it's almost as cool as he was...

Thursday 23 June 2022

Mid-Life Crisis Songs #85: To Be Frank

I lay my head on the railroad tracks
And wait for the double E
The railroad don't run no more
Poor poor pitiful me
Warren Zevon always has the answer.

It's been a bit of a miserable week on this blog, and I'm not going to harp on about that any more, other than to thank you all for your kind and supportive comments. They're more appreciated than I can say without sounding insincere.

Thanks also to Frank Turner, who appears to understand this weltschmerz very well...

I got a brand new name for an old, old friend
The doctor said it's anxiety
And it makes a lot of sense 'cause I've been so tense
Some days, I find it difficult to see

'Cause I've been hemmed in, penned down, struggling to find myself
Caved in, cut down, scared of everybody else
Dragged in, dragged down, searching for a reason to live

Don't you ever wake up and suspect
That you were simply never cut out to be
The kind of person they expect
The person you intended to be?

And I keep it all in with my idiot grin
And I'm doing my best but there's very little left
So cut me some slack if I crawl back into my shell
I haven't been doing so well
Couldn't you tell?

And if self-loathing was a sport, I'd be Muhammad Ali
'Cause I can sting like a butterfly and sink like a bee
But they don't hand out medals to monsters like me
Oh well

I haven't been doing so well

Wednesday 22 June 2022


At 10.30 on Monday evening, I got a call from the local vet's. I couldn't work out why they'd be ringing at that time and I was convinced they'd got the wrong number. Sadly, not the case. They were calling to tell me that Cosmo had been run over. Some kind soul had at least taken him to the vets so they could trace him through his tracking chip... otherwise, he'd have just disappeared and we'd never have known he was dead.

Cosmo was a very independent animal. He treated our house like a hotel where he'd come and snooze, top up on biscuits, and then head back out on his adventures. He would announce his arrival with a short "Breep" and trip you up until you filled his dish. If it was raining, he'd barge in while you were watching TV and demand you towel him down.  He wasn't an affectionate cat, didn't like being picked up, would occasionally bite you if you tried to stroke him... yet he had a surprising bond with Sam. He would bash down Sam's bedroom door early in the morning and cuddle up with Sam on the bed. 

He could lie down like no other cat I've ever known. As though he was stretching himself out as far as he could go. Like one of those rugs with a lion's head at one end. 

He would even hang off the banister like this... and make it seem comfortable. There's a poem by Eleanor Farjeon called Cats Sleep Anywhere. If I didn't know better, I'd think she'd written it about Cosmo.

Cosmo considered the cat flap the best invention ever. Before we had it fitted, he would need to constantly pester the humans to let him in and out. With the cat flap, he truly was a free spirit. 

This is the last photo I took of Cosmo, on Sunday. There was a competition in Sam's magazine to send a photo of your pet with a copy... I never got round to emailing it. Probably for the best.

I didn't want to call him Cosmo, but I was out-voted. He wasn't named after Cosmo Jarvis, although Sam does like a few of that Cosmo's songs. Especially the rather bawdy one below...

Cosmo was only two years old when he died, but he leaves a big hole in our lives.

Tuesday 21 June 2022

Mid-Life Crisis Songs #84: Just Like That

I've been feeling pretty down lately, though that's hardly anything new. I guess I've fought against what the doctors kindly call 'low mood' most of my life. I don't often write about it here, because this blog is self-indulgent enough as it is. But sometimes you just have to acknowledge it and move on. There's nothing else to be done. Maybe watch some Tommy Cooper. He never fails to raise a smile. Except thinking about him, or Morecambe & Wise, or any of the old comedians I watched when I was kid, inevitably leads to feeling old. Old isn't the same as depressed though. Sometimes I'm happy to be growing old. "More in the mirror than there is up ahead," as James McMurtry puts it. Sometimes you welcome that. 

The new Bonnie Raitt album is called Just Like That. I doubt Bonnie Raitt has any idea who Tommy Cooper, is, but the title track stopped me in my tracks. You know I like a good story song, and this one has a twist that kicked me in the guts. I didn't see it coming and I found it really affecting. Maybe you will too. 

Knowing there are people out there who have far more reason to suffer "low mood" than I do really should make me quit the moping. Usually though, it just adds to my feelings of self-reproach...

Monday 20 June 2022

Monday Morning Blues #4: Post Father's Day Blues

I had a lovely Father's Day - the selection of gifts above from Sam (via Louise) was well received. I saw my own dad on Saturday, but he's hard to have a lengthy conversation with these days. Struggling with his health, finding it particularly hard to walk great distances, he clearly misses his former independence, and as a result has closed in on himself. I like to see him, but it also makes me sad because I can tell he's unhappy, yet it's beyond anything I can do to help him. I guess he appreciated the John Grisham and the chocolate truffle fudge (he started reading and tucking into it almost immediately on receipt), but I wish I could do more.

Otis Gibbs has the Back In My Day Blues. I reckon my dad knows how they feel... then again, so do I.

Sunday 19 June 2022

Snapshots #245: A Top Ten Farm Songs

How you gonna keep them down on the farm after they've played Saturday Snapshots?

These ten songs might help to keep them around...

10. Vigil was about these.

There was a recent TV show, starring famous typo Suranne Jones, called Vigil. It was about submarines. In the UK.

UK Subs - Down On The Farm

9. Found ten rules, lost 19th letter, my aim is true.

Moses found the ten commandments, but lost the letter S. My aim is true is from Alison

Mose Allison - Parchman Farm

8. Roy, Rachael and Rick (?) enjoy the sunrise.

Roy, Rachel and Rick were characters in Blade Runner. At least two of them were Replicants.

Dawn of the Replicants - Hogwash Farm

7. Advice given about getting over the wall.

Counsellors give advice. Stiles help you get over a wall.

The Style Council - Life At A Top People's Health Farm

6. Nobby lad.


Bob Dylan - Maggie's Farm

5. Instructions to not remove something from the ship's wheel. 

Leave (it) on the helm!

Levon Helm - Poor Old Dirt Farmer

4. Unlike Nick's, this lot didn't go bad.

Nick Cave has Bad Seeds.

The Seeds - Mr Farmer

3. Gr8 joy.


XTC - Love On A Farmboy's Wages

2. Homer's Bonnie Prince.

Bonnie Prince Charlie joins the Simpsons.

Charlie Simpson - The Farmer & His Gun 

1. Chris, Steve, George and Ricky call it Aciiiiid!

Chris Martin, Steve Martin, George Martin and Ricky Martin like a bit of House music.

The Housemartins - Me & The Farmer

More next week.

Saturday 18 June 2022

Saturday Snapshots #245

Welcome, all you Goodmen and women. Thank you for joining me for another game of Saturday Snapshots. This is not 'Nam, this is Snapshots, there are rules. And the rules are - identify the ten popular music stars below, then work out what connects their songs.

10. Vigil was about these.

9. Found ten rules, lost 19th letter, my aim is true.

8. Roy, Rachael and Rick (?) enjoy the sunrise.

7. Advice given about getting over the wall.

6. Nobby lad.

5. Instructions to not remove something from the ship's wheel. 

4. Unlike Nick's, this lot didn't go bad.

3. Gr8 joy.

2. Homer's Bonnie Prince.

1. Chris, Steve, George and Ricky call it Aciiiiid!

If trying to figure out the answers has you entering a world of pain... come back tomorrow morning.

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