Friday 31 March 2023

Product Placement Friday #8: Twiglets

Look, everyone: George is back to give me another day off! And he's brought Twiglets!

Take it away, George...

When I was growing up in the 1960s and 70s, my parents would sometimes have parties (NO, that those kind of parties!), and sometimes my brother and I would be dragged along to their friends’ houses for similar gatherings. Typical party food: vol-au-vonts, sausages and pineapple on cocktail sticks (not the entire pineapple), Silverskin onions (on a cocktail stick, sometimes with pineapple, and not Silvikrin onions, such a thing would be beyond disgusting), and savoury snacks in a kind of multi-pack, sections with peanuts, cheese puffs, those little stick potato crisp things, and Twiglets. No sane child liked or would admit to liking Twiglets in those far off days, (my brother and I certainly hated them, and we were very sane), that peculiar snacky thing of hardened flour twisted into what could pass for a small twig (maybe 6cm long) coated in Marmite.  I don’t suppose Twiglets are actually hardened flour coated in Marmite, and it’s simple to find out just what they are, but where’s the fun in that? Those days of pointless arguments about trivial issues such as this are gone, thanks to the Bloody Internet. (When I was drinking with Charity Chic and two other friends in Dundee a few weeks ago we had a ridiculous few moments trying to remember where the 2018 World Cup was held, which in those far off days before the Bloody Internet could have gone on for at least 20 minutes but was cut short by (a) one of us actually remembering, and (b) at the same time Euan looking it up on his phone).

But it is thanks to the Bloody Internet that I have found a few songs that mention that Marmite-coated snack, a snack that I actually like now...

First up, here’s Lady Sovereign...

Push me, push me up against that fridger... I ain't frigid I'm just expressin' myself as one really hungry midget Crack open them Twiglets so we can munch them like piglets Lady Sovereign - Food Play And next, Justin Bieber. Almost. Bieber eating a Twiglet Bieber eating a Twiglet Bieber eating a Twiglet On a talk show eating a Twiglet Not the most profound lyric, I’ll admit. Parry Gripp - Bieber Eating A Twiglet Third choice is a genuinely belting song, by Thomas Dolby, the Blinded Him With Science bloke, but this track I would file under Americana: Tank up on Dr. Pepper Twiglets and Jaffa Cakes Long trail of sweet wrappers Swirling in our wake I found one more track, by the Amateur Transplants called Swearytale of New York, which you can find on Spotify, but for some reason I could not play it. It’s probably a twee load of old bobbins anyway. Unlike that Thomas Dolby track.

And I like Marmite now as well as Twiglets, although they don’t sell it in the supermarkets here.

Thanks, as ever, George, for giving me another day off. And look... I found that Amateur Transplants track for you. It's anything but twee... there's a clue in the title.

Thursday 30 March 2023

Cnut Songs #21: The Every (3)

King Cnut could not hold back the tide, and I cannot hold back society's full-throttle descent into dystopia. All I can do is watch helplessly from the sidelines, and nod my head sagely when others hold a mirror up to the madness. Which is why I've been using this space over the past few weeks to quote excerpts from Dave Eggers' novel, The Every. Because everyone should read it and face up to the horror...

In this extract, Delaney has to organise a Welcome2Me event in which she invites a random selection of her colleagues (“Everyones”) to participate in a “get to know you”-type social event. She chooses to take them to a local beach where a colony of elephant seals have gathered to mate… but from the moment she announces the event, she’s prepared for resistance.

Delaney wrote a three-paragraph description of the day’s plan, including six links to basic and concise information about the seals, their history on the Pacific coast, their mating cycles, Point Reyes in general and Playa 36 specifically. “If you haven’t seen Pt. Reyes, be prepared,” Delaney wrote. “It will be spectacular.” Not that anyone living in Northern California needed to be told to bring layers, but she mentioned this, and she mentioned sunscreen, and comfortable shoes, and a warm hat if one’s ears were prone to chill. She sent a draft to Kiki, who, in a distracted moment, wrote only “Food”. Delaney took this to mean that the Everyones could not be expected to bring their own lunches, so Delaney arranged with a deli around the corner from The Sea Shed to create eighty sandwiches for the day, for vegans and vegetarians, pescatarians and carnivores, at least two options for every attendee, and a bounty of side salads and drinks – all to be brought on the bus in reusable containers.

A group of forty-two Everyones were selected by algorithm. It was to be a cross-campus smorgasbord, a sampling rich in variety of departments and interests. And because there would be photos and possibly group photos, a representative and perhaps augmented display of the company’s diversity was essential. Once the forty-two attendees had been chosen, a message list was created, and Delaney’s now-three-page description of the event – elucidating what would be available to drink and eat, and enumerating all that need be brought – was sent to the forty-two on the Tuesday before the excursion.

“No info here for the lactose-free…” said the first message, and Delaney cursed herself for this easy oversight. “Ignore that event description!” she wrote, “Better one to come!” She went through the entire three pages again, editing an adding two pages more, this time anticipating every allergy and preference. She covered gluten, eggs, nuts, nightshades and cinnamon – recent but fast-spreading intolerances and de-preferences, respectively – and this time, in a stroke of what she considered brilliance, she mentioned the particular deli she’d engaged, Emil’s on Pacheco, in case anyone wanted to pre-order and get the precise sandwich they wished.

“Emil’s? Have you seen this?” This message linked to a photo of Emil, the young proprietor, posing with an Israeli flag, on what appeared to be a Tel Aviv beach. This was followed by seventy-six messages from a fourth of the forty-two Point Reyes attendees, most with links to bombastic articles and messages about the rightness or wrongness of Israel vis a vis Palestine and what any given Everyone would be saying by eating sandwiches made by a man (and his staff) who were so proud of Israel and its misdeeds that he so jingoistically would pose with its flag on a luxurious beach of oppression.

“Is the bus using plant-based fuel?” one attendee asked. It’s a standard bus, so I assume so, Delaney wrote. “Do I need hiking boots?” No, Delaney wrote, we’ll just be standing on sand, or in the parking lot near the beach. “I don’t see a packing list. Usually there’s a packing list for such an outdoor activity.” I provided a packing list, Delaney answered, though you might have missed it because it’s embedded and short. You really only need yourselves and, like I said, layers, and maybe a hat. I’m even bringing sunscreen, so you can take that off the list! “What kind of sunscreen are you bringing, Delaney?” Delaney had not actually bought the sunscreen yet, so she looked online and found an organic brand, Sensible Dawn. This triggered an avalanche. “Wait, now we’re supporting Scientology?” an Everyone wrote, and Delaney soon found that Dawn Unger, the sunscreen’s founder, had been a Scientologist, though she didn’t appear to be one now, and had posted no content anywhere in support of Scientology. “Delaney, seeing elephant seals shouldn’t involve cult-complicity,” one helpful Everyone wrote, in the most measured of the messages. After four hours of screeds and ululations, totalling 413 messages covering the sins and virtues of every company that had or still did provide sunscreen to the world, the group settled on an organic maker based in the Antilles. That the product had travelled a few thousand miles seemed likely to provoke a reaction of some kind, but at the end of Day Two, had not yet done so.

The Welcome2Me event inevitably proves disastrous, and soon after Delaney is invited to participate in two restorative events in which the “survivors of the Playa 36 Debacle” are invited to vent their emotions on the trauma they have endured.

The solutions to the beach, the bus, and the uncomfortable proximity to wildlife were, again, direct and increasingly extreme. “Don’t visit that beach,” was the first, and was followed by, “Close the beach,” then “Don’t exploit animals for our gawking pleasure,” and finally it was agreed that, “Humans should not be permitted near any animals in any context,” and that, “Large groups of humans travelling together in fifteen-ton fuel-burning vehicles are so obviously environmentally offensive and metaphorically obvious that we cannot, ever, be part of the problem again.”

And that’s just the beginning of the fall-out…

Speaking of the world going to hell in a handbasket, it's a sign of the times when Shakin' Stevens turns into a protest singer...

Wednesday 29 March 2023

TV On The Radio #2: The Sweeney

I was too young to watch The Sweeney when it first aired in the mid 70s. All that violence, bad language and people being told to get their trousers on was too much for my young, impressionable mind. I did catch the repeats in the 80s, but by then I was more familiar with John "Regan" Thaw from Inspector Morse and Dennis "Carter" Waterman from Minder. 

The Sweeney was a groundbreaking show in that it started to show the darker side of the force - from coppers who bent the law to get the job done to out and out corruption for personal gain. This coincided with a nasty time for the Scotland Yard Flying Squad the show was named after... and judging by recent reports, very little has changed in the past fifty years.

Oh, and it's another show with a legendary theme tune, written by jazz pianist and Georgie Fame collaborator Harry South...

Last week, Rigid Digit reminded us that certain TV theme tunes appear to have been written soi that you can sing the name of the show over the dominant musical phrase of the tune. The Sweeney follows Hill Street Blues in that: "The Sweeney - The Sweeney - ba ba ba ba baa ba ba ba - The Sweeney - The Sweeney..." etc. I half-expected that technique to have been used on this track by The Filthy 3... but they rather botch it. Still, the video includes some entertaining cameos from the likes of Alvin Stardust, Frank Sidebottom and Terry Duckworth...

Let's kick off our proper musical tribute to The Sweeney with a big Wow...

When the actor reaches his death
You know it's not for real, he just holds his breath
But he always dives too soon, too fast to save himself

He'll never make the screen
He'll never make the Sweeney
Be that movie queen
He's too busy hitting the Vaseline

There's a whole story behind the creation of this next "lost" 1979 single by the band Speed of Life. It may well be a complete work of fiction, but it's a compelling one.

Of course, if you're not a Londoner, you might have trouble understanding the banter between Regan and Carter. Fortunately, Smiley Culture is here to help...

But first let me tell you more about the Cockney
Who live comfortably and have them yacht by the sea
And when it come to money most of then have plenty
But where them spend it? In the bookie
Lose it all on the dogs or on the gee gees
Or paying off them bribes to the Sweeney
So dem nah go do no time fi no armed robbery
Or catching anything that fell off the back of a lorry

Now specially for C, here's something Crass...

The Sweeney are cruising Brixton, created another Belfast.
And J.R.'s advising Thatcher on lighting, make up and cast.

So many TV shows referenced in that song, I've a feeling we'll hear from it again.

Almost at the end now, just time for some unreconstructed Momus...

Banged up in the clinker with a milkman for a mate
I must 'ave 'ad it coming but I don't prognosticate
The Sweeney doing ninety with the sirens and the lights
And me in striped pyjamas and the Tottenham tights

That lyric's clearly a reference to today's undisputed champion... surely the greatest #2 hit to ever feature a whole verse devoted to popular TV cops...

The Sweeney's doing ninety 'cause they've got the word to go
They get a gang of villains in a shed up at Heathrow
They're counting out the fivers when the handcuffs lock again
In and out of Wandsworth with the numbers on their names
It's funny how their missus always look so bleeding same
And meanwhile at the station there's a couple of likely lads
Who swear like, "How's your father?" and they're very cool for cats
They're cool for cats

A rare lead vocal from Chris Difford too, looking about 12 in this video...

That's all for today. SHUT IT.

Tuesday 28 March 2023

Namesakes #27: Alphaville

Jean-Luc Godard's 1965 noir sci-fi movie has had a huge influence on popular culture. Robert Palmer copied its visuals for the cover of his debut album, Sneaking Sally Through The Alley. The Cranberries paid homage in their video to Linger.  Kelly Osbourne did likewise in One Word. The Monochrome Set had a song called Alphaville, while The Rentals got Lost In Alphaville. Even Bryan Ferry got in on the act. But surely there can't be more than one band to have adopted the movie's title... can there?


If you're familiar with the name Alphaville, then this probably isn't the band you were expecting. Our first Alphaville formed in 1980 in Madrid and were prominent members of the Spanish post-punk scene.

Interestingly, youtube includes these guys on the same official channel as the second Alphaville... but they're definitely different bands.


The Alphaville most people will be familiar were a synth-pop band who formed in 1982 in the German city of Münster. Presumably where Herman and Lily came from. Lead singer Marian Gold had some seriously Jagger-esque lips going on. They were also very big in Japan...

And that's it. Phew. It's actually nice to do one of these where the choice is limited to just two bands for a change. That's kind of what I'd envisaged they'd all be like when I started this feature, but it rarely seems to be the case.

Which is your Alphaville... and which is a definite Beta?

Monday 27 March 2023

Celebrity Jukebox #79: Mary Tyler Moore

My knowledge of Mary Tyler Moore is somewhat second-hand as I was just too young to have watched her groundbreaking sitcoms, though I do remember watching spin-offs such as Rhoda and Lou Grant with my mum. Mary's reputation as a feminist icon appears well-deserved though: as one of the most successful female stars in American TV, the joint head of the production company that gave us everything from Newhart to Hill Street Blues, a prominent campaigner for social rights... and the woman who put Dick Van Dyke in his place long before Julie Andrews.... MTM is clearly a legend.

Her jukebox legacy is pretty legendary too, starting with Prince...

Skip the Remy and let me have some Mary Tyler Moore of that new power soul
Comin' from the Midwest passin' every test with a fuzz tone remote control

Then the artist formerly known as Tin Tin...

Like Mary Tyler-Moore
She stares across the yawning tide
Out of love and terrified

This blog's only claim to fame is that, many years ago, the lead singer of Bowling For Soup once left a comment here. This is BFS's version of the Mary Tyler Moore theme tune... which REM have also played live, but I can't find their version anywhere on the interweb.

Next, we find Ian Hunter hoopling his across the channel...

Well I'm an All American Alien Boy
Look out Mary Tyler Moore

The Hold Steady are firm favourites here at Top Ten Towers, and they've got a new album out this week. Here's one from their 2005 classic Separation Sunday...

I was half dead then I got born again
I got lost in all the lights but it was okay in the end
And when we hit the Twin Cities, I didn't know that much about it
I knew Mary Tyler Moore and I knew Profane Existence

In a similar sonic vein, here's a lost classic from an album I was very much into back in 1999, Ed Hamell's song about a sleazy Private Eye...

So I ditch these guys quick, I take a cab to the address
And the housemaid gives up the photos with very little stress
But as I round the corner something dawns on me
I recognize from these photos, this old actor from TV
And he's having sex with children, now this would close the door
On future shots on Bay Watch and Mary fuckin' Tyler Moore
So I visit this old actor, firmly explain my situation
And he gives me 90 G's to show his appreciation

OK, how about a couple of songs that mention MTM in their title? Starting with a 90s Christian alt-rock band from Texas...

Then some 80s Aussie indie from Whangarei...

And now, from the "Never Heard Of 'Em But Still Not Bad" file, here's a San Francisco band "that plays original indie rock music with hints of progressive"...

I've got a face for radio 
And a voice that's meant only 
To sing drunken karaoke 
Singing ooh-ee-oo 
I look just like Buddy Holly 
And you're Mary Tyler Moore 

Hey! Wait a second. I recognise that lyric! And that's not the only place I've found it referenced...

Need a tall girl, '70s Jane Fonda
Or Mary Tyler Moore, Iran, no war
I look just like Buddy Holly, no I don't, "Oh, Boy!"

Yes, I guess the true proof of a legendary hit single comes when other bands start referencing your song in their own tunes. There was only ever going to be one winner today... but the question is, did Mary ever meet Buddy in real life?

And the answer is... no, though she was apparently a fan. MTM began appearing in The Dick Van Dyke Show shortly after Buddy's death in 1961, and when she got her own show, Sonny Curtis from the Crickets was given the job of writing and performing the theme tune we discussed earlier.

So that answers that. The only question remaining... What's with these homies, dissing my girl?

Sunday 26 March 2023

Snapshots #285: A Top Ten Geometry Songs

This week's Snapshots was specially for all the Maths teachers reading this... well, George.

10. Did you mix up the bait, mum?

"Bait, mum" was an anagram.

Geometric Term = Point

Matumbi - Point Of View

9. Oh what a night these guys had.

Oh What A Night was in December, 1963.

Geometric Term = Angles

8. A bar... with a extra R.

A Mars Bar... with an extra R.

Geometric Term = Volume

7. He's Sly and... the US KLF, almost.

Sly & Robbie meets an angram.

Geometric Term = Parallel

6. Jupiter, Mars, Vulcan, Krypton. 

They're all planets.

Geometric Term = Lines

5. I wager she'll be somewhere near the centre.

I bet she's in the middle.

Geometric Term = Distance

4. When a Hammer met a Rebel.

Jan Hammer meets James 'Rebel Without A Cause' Dean.

Geometric Term = Curve

3. Enough to make your but shake.

"But shake" was an anagram.

Geometric term = pi

2. From chairman to binman.

The Chairman of the Board was Frank Sinatra. A bin man empties trashcans.

Geometric Term = Circumference

1. Afterwards, we're off to watch Joshua fight.

Joshua fought the battle of Jericho. 

Geometric Term = Area

1. Then Jericho - Big Area

There'll be more Snapshots for you to work out next Saturday...

Saturday 25 March 2023

Saturday Snapshots #285

Last weekend, we took Sam to see the movie 65 about a spaceman (Adam Driver, above) who crashlands on earth 65 million years ago and has to fight dinosaurs and avoid getting killed by the meteor that wipes them out. Would I recommend it? Let's just say, it felt like 65 million years of my life I won't be getting back...

Hopefully today's quiz will be more fun. Identify the ten artists below, then work out what connects their songs, please...

10. Did you mix up the bait, mum?

9. Oh what a night these guys had.

8. A bar... with a extra R.

7. He's Sly and... the US KLF, almost.

6. Jupiter, Mars, Vulcan, Krypton. 

5. I wager she'll be somewhere near the centre.

4. When a Hammer met a Rebel.

3. Enough to make your but shake.

2. From chairman to binman.

1. Afterwards, we're off to watch Joshua fight.

And guess what: you don't have to wait 65 million years for the answers! They'll be here tomorrow morning...

Friday 24 March 2023

Product Placement Friday #7: Fray Bentos

This week, I'm handing over the responsibility of Product Placement Friday to George... thanks for giving me a day off, old pal. 

Since my return from the freezing cold of Dundee, I have spent many hours sitting in the sun here at the farm, gazing at the Serra and trying to come up with an idea for this series.

First attempt: Hula Hoops, but a hula hoop seems to be that plastic thing that some people shake about their hips, and even to me a song referring to jumping through a hula hoop of fire simply can not refer to the potato-ish product I was thinking of.

Second attempt: Angel Delight, but this led to songs that I’m quite sure had nothing to do with that peculiar powdered desert (one that we were never allowed to have as children despite “everyone else in my class has it for their pudding”) and also included band names, song titles and lyrics that were eye-wateringly crude.

One more go. Result! So here it is, songs that mention Fray Bentos (that was never allowed in our house thankfully, a steak pie in a tin, or was it steak and kidney, that’s just disgusting).

What better way to start than with Ian Anderson (he of Jethro Tull), from the belated follow-up to the Thick As A Brick album:

Smooth clockwork running motors hum while barren Madge prepares hot dinner

Fray Bentos pie: always a winner

Ian Anderson - Cosy Corner

Next up is Scott Lavene, this might appeal to more people than my first choice (although the estuary-London accent might be a turn-off). It’s an 8 minute listen but very enjoyable

So on this day, he brought around two bottles of gin,

Four bottles of wine, some Fray Bentos Pies

Six tins of cheap Irish stew, a packet of Ginger Nuts, and a loaf of shit bread

Scott Lavene - Broke

Asbo Slipz have an entire song devoted to the steak-pie-in-a-tin yuckiness;

Other pies, well they're for other guys,

Not bad, but I won't compromise

I need the pies that come within

Blue tins with hard to  open lids

Built to survive a nuclear

Bomb and withstand a hundred years

Sat in my kitchen cupboard I've no no fears

With Fray Bentos on my side

Asbo Slipz - Fray Bentos (song for Bav)

The Macc Lads have a song that mentions Fray Bentos. I have not knowingly heard anything by this lot, and after looking at the lyrics I decided to omit the song, I don’t know if it’s tongue-in-cheek satire or just offensive. Anyway, I didn’t like it. 

Unlike the next and last one, by Goldie Lookin Chain. 

And these lyrics are not for the faint-hearted, but I thought this was hilarious

'Til someone said 'oi wanker, what you doing?'

Threw me out, I raised an objection

With corned  beef still stuck to my erection

So what, fuck 'em, I don't give a toss

I'm going home with a Fray Bentos

Thanks again to George for saving me some time this week... although that didn't stop me from having a look to see if I could find anything he'd missed. Here are The Wheezing Dogs from late 70s Canada. Their lead singer was called... Fray Bentos.

The Wheezing Dogs - I Don't Like You

And here's some German Trip Hop...

The Bad Examples -  Das Stück, Das Sie Fray Bentos Nannten

(It translates as The Piece They Called Fray Bentos.)

Fortunately, that was all that I could find.

Thursday 23 March 2023

Cnut Songs #20: The Every (2)

I bought this for Louise on Mother's Day. He crushed it with his own feet. 
Someone at work asked, "Is Louise a big fan?" No. That's why it was funny. 

Earlier in the week, Martin blogged about his experiments with ChatGPT, the new AI chatbot that's about to replace human "experts" across the world. We all agreed how scary this was. I commented that it reminded me of Dave Eggers' firm belief that society is moving towards handing over freedom of choice in return for the safety of conformity.

Here's another extract from The Every, a novel which is best described as 1984 meets Catch 22 with a healthy dollop of Gulliver's Travels. Yes, it's satire... but so close to reality that it's hard to work out which bits are true and which bits Eggers has created for comic effect.

In the following extract, Delaney has gone to work for the HereMe department which creates Smart Speakers. Eggers uses this as an excuse to chronicle the secret history of Smart Speakers, which sounds like fiction… until you realise we’ve already lived through much of it.

Smart speakers had an awkward introduction to the world. They arrived in the 2010s to phenomenal sales, with hundreds of millions of households adopting them within the first five years. Before The Every entered the picture, the makers of the devices assured the buyers that the AI assistants were never activated unless their designated name or code word was spoken. This reassured the users that their private everyday conversations were not being heard, that only brief requests were audible, and even then, never stored. But a few months later, it was revealed that the smart speakers were in fact listening all the time, or could listen all the time. In fact, they could be activated by their manufacturers any time at all. For this, the manufacturers apologised; perhaps there had been some confusion, they said. Were we unclear?

The users, though momentarily upset at this foundational and central deception, were assuaged when they were told that under no circumstances were their conversations recorded. It would be, both users and manufacturers agreed, an egregious breach of trust to have a machine that a customer brought into their house – a machine, everyone noted, that was purchased primarily to play music and inform them of the current traffic – actually recording the conversations conducted in these private households. That would be unethical. And so it was assumed that no recording was being done by these home assistants, until one day the manufacturers admitted that they had in fact been recording just about every conversation every user had ever had, from the very beginning.

Again the makers were contrite. When you were asking before about whether we were recording conversations, they said, we didn’t quite understand what you meant. We thought you meant recording and listening to these conversations, and that of course we would never do. We would never. We record the conversations of hundreds of millions of users, yes, but no humans ever listen to any of these conversations. Conversations in the home, between family members, are private, are sacrosanct! they said. We simply record these conversations to improve our software, they said, to optimize our services, to better serve you, the customers, better.

And for a while the users, though feeling wary and burned by the series of revelations, looked askance at their smart speakers, wondering if the tradeoff was actually worth it. On the one hand, their private family conversations were being recorded and stored offsite for unknown future use by a trillion-dollar company with a limitless litany of privacy violations. On the other hand, they could find out the weather without ever looking out the window.

Fine, the users said sternly, fists on hips, you can continue to record everything we say, but – but! – if we ever find out that you manufacturers were having actual humans listen to our conversations, that will be one step over the line.

We would never! the manufacturers said, hurt by the inference, which, they felt, was offensive even to think about, given how open and transparent they had been from the start. Didn’t we reveal, they asked, after we were caught, that our smart speakers were turning themselves off an on at their own behest? And didn’t we admit, after we were caught, that we were listening to and recording anything we wanted at any time, anything that was said in the private homes of millions of users? And didn’t we reveal, after we were caught, that we were recording all the private conversations every user had in the privacy of their own homes?

After all this openness and contrition, they said, it stings to think that customers would wonder aloud if the other shoes might drop. No more shoes, said the manufacturers, would be dropping. We stand before you barefoot and humbled.

When it was revealed that the manufacturers had in fact hired 10,000 humans, whose only purpose was to listen to, transcribe and analyse the private conversations that had been recorded by these smart speakers, the manufacturers were amazed at the outrage, as muted as it was. Yes, they said, we have all along been recording and listening to your conversations, but none of these 10,000 workers know your names, so what possible difference would it make that we have all of your private conversations recorded, and that we could with one or two keystrokes de-anonymize your conversations at any time? And given the fact that every database ever created has been hacked, these recordings could be accessed by anyone at any time who had will enough to get them? What, the manufacturers asked, are you getting so worked up about?

In fact, no one got worked up at all. Lawmakers were mute, regulators invisible, and sales skyrocketed.

Eggers goes on to suggest the logical next steps for Smart Speakers... and they seem frighteningly prophetic. Go read The Every if you want to be really scared...

Miracle Legion came from Connecticut in 1983. They were on Rough Trade for a while, so the NME loved them. This is from their 1992 album Drenched. I'm a sucker for songs with "Ba ba ba ba baaa" choruses.

Wednesday 22 March 2023

TV On The Radio #1: Hill Street Blues

In my increasingly irrelevant quest to find lyrical references to obscure ephemera, here's a new series in which I dig out songs that mention old TV shows. I realise I'm about to reach Peak Series, or Theme Overload, but it's got to be preferable to any more posts with me whinging like Marvin The Paranoid Android. Hasn't it?

"Dispatch. We have a 9-11. Armed robbery in progress. See Surplus Store, corner People's Drive, 121st Street."

Mike Post's theme tune to Hill Street Blues deserves a post all on its own. Post originally wanted to write something gritty and action-packed, but ultimately decided to go in the opposite direction and compose a "beautiful and serene" theme that took you away from the brutality of life on the Hill. It's one of the most effective and memorable TV themes ever recorded; a Top Ten hit in the US, Top 30 in the UK.

From "beautiful and serene"... to a right old racket.

We're gonna have a TV party tonight
All right!
We're gonna have a TV party, all right
We've got nothing better to do
Than watch TV and have a couple of brews
Don't talk about anything else
We don't want to know
We're dedicated to our favorite shows
That's incredible!
Hill Street Blues!

Black Flag - TV Party

And while I'm not the biggest rap fan, I do have a soft spot for Snoop...

On the move, can't lose, Hill Street Blues

Snoop Dogg - Gangbangin' 101

Next up, here's something that screams EIGHTIES at the top of its lungs. A Jive Bunny-esque Megamix of a bunch of old 10cc songs by Kevin and Lol with added 80s-style rap, because... that's what the kids will love.

I blame the advent of the 12" single for much of this tosh...

I went to a party at the county jail
All the con's were dancing, they began to wail
They were in the street, dancing in the street
But that was indiscreet (what'cha gonna do about it?)
The band was playing, there was plenty of booze
So they called Furillo at Hill Street Blues
There's a riot going on
(What'cha gonna do about it? What'cha gonna do about it?)
Furillo and his men made it to the jail
You should have heard those sirens wail

Godley & Creme - Wet Rubber Soup (Recycled)

To clean your palate after that, here's some hard-rockin' Americana... direct from Portugal. Not to be confused with the former Scottish football player who used to play for Wolverhampton Wanderers.

I don't wanna smell your dirty shoes
Raise me up and sit me on the window
Please take me to the Hill Street Blues
Mama sold me as a wind-up toy

Finally, some Swedish rock from a band I was very into back in the late 90s... so that's, what, 25 years ago now? Sigh. Still, I started watching Hill Street Blues 40 years ago...

And hey... let's be careful out there!

Tuesday 21 March 2023

Namesakes #26: Kaleidoscope

This week's band name is inspired by Ernie, who was mourning the passing of one sapecific Kaleidoscope member just last week. Suffice it to say that there's a veritable kaleidoscope of bands who have chosen to use this name. Here's a selection...


This English psych-folk-prog Kaleidoscope began life in 1964 as The Sidekicks. They also went under the names The Key, Fairfield Parlour and I Luv Wight (see what they did there?). Their critically acclaimed 1967 debut album was called Tangerine Dream... I'm not sure if this influenced the German band of the same name who also formed in 1967. 

They reformed in 2013 and are still kicking around today. 


Our next Kaleidoscope also ploughed the furrows of psychedelia, but over on the other side of the pond. They released four albums in the late 60s and later reformed in 1976 and 1991 to release new material. Lead singer David Lindley, who died earlier this month, went on to enjoy a prolific solo career, while multi-instrumentalist Solomon Feldthouse was the father of actress Fairuza Balk. 


More psychedelia, this time from late 60s Mexico... although most of the individual members were Puerto Rican... and proper trippy it is too.


From New Jersey via Philadelphia, this soulful Kaleidoscope came together in 1975 and appear to still be going. I dig this song title...


They're from Switzlerland in the 70s, and that's all I know...


Heavy rock, Thailand style, from the late 70s through the 90s...


An Australian indie Kaleidoscope from the early 00s with a lead singer called Kylie... but not that one.


More Aussie rockers, from the delightfully named Wollongong, this time of the grungier persuasion, in 2014...


Finally, some hardcore punk from Noo Yoik City, circa 2017...

That was the pick of the bunch... but which one sets your mind a-spinning?

Monday 20 March 2023

Celebrity Jukebox #78: Max Von Sydow

The power of Christ compels me to see what ungodly tunes might have been sung about Carl Adolf von Sydow, an actor about whom we probably don't need to ask "Why'd you change it to Max?" (He stole the name from the star of a Flea Circus he saw while in the army.) 

Von Sydow began his career playing chess with Death in The Seventh Seal, a metaphor which could well be extended to his later roles in The Exorcist and as Ming The Merciless in Flash Gordon. Checkmate finally came in 2020, when Max was 90... no one escapes Death.

Here's a band called Randy. They're big fans of The Exorcist, but not so much the sequel...

Some years went by then came The Heretic: Exorcist 2
Starring Linda Blair and Max Von Sydow too
It had none of the mood or the tension
It was not a worthy continuation, a category B
And a big disappointment for me, oh me

Next up, it's Norway's answer to John Denver: Ole Paus, with a song that appears to begin with  a Norwegian politician's response to The Exorcist.

Ungdomssekretæren herr Oddvar Søvik
I den Lutherske Norske Indremisjon
Var på kino en kveld og så Max von Sydow
Og en pike som lå og balet med en forførerisk demon

You'll have to forgive me, my Norwegian is a little rusty.

Now I've heard some pretty odd tunes since I started this feature, but I reckon Jon and Wei Kai might take the biscuit. 

Late last night I was out of my mind
When I learned that Max Von Sydow had died

Here's a band named after Max Von Sydow. There had to be one, didn't there?

And here's a band called Christ Chopper. It might be better to imagine what they sound like rather than clicking the link. Guess what, you're right!

And here's some Danish rap...

Fortunately, I only need one good tune to make this feature worthwhile. And one good tune is what we get. Here's a song by the wonderful Allo Darlin' about Woody Allen's movie Hannah & Her Sisters, in which Max played a key role...

In the movie of our lives, would Woody Allen write the screenplay?
Not his best era, but certainly not his worst either
But I wouldn't like to be like Diane Keaton in Manhattan
So cerebral was she, runs away from any romance

Max von Sydow couldn't play you
Max von Sydow couldn't play you
I know you'd want him to
But Max von Sydow couldn't play you

Sunday 19 March 2023

Snapshots #284: A Top Ten Grandparent Songs

It's my birthday today, but now that I've passed the half century, we don't celebrate them anymore.

It's also Mother's Day though, and my mum's a great grandma... as well as a great-grandma. 

Here are ten songs about grandparents...

10. Easy access acorns.

Squirrel Nut Zippers - Good Enough For Grandad

9. Bernau, Dessau, Weimar artists.

Three cities where you would find the Bauhaus school of art.

Bauhaus - Watch That Grandad Go

8. Mr. Pageboy in a muddle.

"Mr. Pageboy" was an anagram.

Moby Grape - Hey Grandma

7. Musical Miles, in the Mile High City.

John Miles made Music.

The Mile High City is Denver.

John Denver - Grandma's Feather Bed

6. Strong odour on the tracks.

There's a grand funk on the railroad.

Grand Funk Railroad - Look At Granny Run Run

5. What Billy keeps waiting for.

Billy is waiting for The Great Leap Forward.

The Great Leap Forward - My Grandfather’s Cluck

4. Mr. Owen / Anderson is finished.

Clive Owen / Anderson is done.

Clive Dunn - Grandad

And no, I couldn't bring myself to include the St. Winifred's School Choir. I do have some standards.

3. Mine king gets a peerage.

King Solomon had some mines. Burke's has a peerage.

Solomon Burke - Be Bop Grandma

2. What's new... and what's shakin'?

What's new, pussyCAT... and Shakin' Stevens =

Cat Stevens - Granny

1. It's Brew Hill!


Bill Withers - Grandma's Hands

More of this nonsense next Saturday.

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