Tuesday 30 April 2024

Namesakes #83: The Castaways

While researching last week's post on Cast, I came across a number of bands called The Castaways, many of whom seemed slightly more interesting than the various Casts I ended up listening to. 

Time to get cast away then... with, hopefully, no Tom Hanks in sight. Frankly, if I was stranded on a desert island with that smug git, I'd start swimming...


Let's start in 1954, with a superb slice of doo wop on Excello Records. I can't find his name, but the lead singer has an excellent voice.


Next, a slightly discordant surf instrumental, originally released in 1959 as Beatnik by the Royal Jokers... then reissued one year later as this...


In 1961, Henry Thome and Loy Clingman were the Castaways. Loy, also known as Bolliver Boswell, set up his own record label and enjoyed a reasonably successful solo career (well, he put out a lot of singles under his own name... but I guess he was the boss, so he could do that).

This is the B Side, which I prefer to the A because of its title...


With lead singer Bill Trader, these country castaways jumped on board the cultural appropriation caravan (they also had a song called Caravan, which I wanted to find for CC, but couldn't) back in 1962.


Led by one Tony Rivers, no relation to Joan, this lot hailed from That London in 1963, but seemed to stick around doing their beat thing for most of the swinging decade. Here is their debut single...


Also from 1963, The LA Castaways have written a song about Tarzan. Extra marks for that, especially when they start doing the "Awwwwooooowwwwoooowwww!" Tarzan cry.


Originally spelled with a C, this lot changed to a K when the group below hit the "big time". Also known as the Sigma Five, they hailed from Indiana... but did Indiana want them?


"Welcome to the Home of the Nationally Famous Band in Minnesota USA!" says the website for these Castaways. As an English teacher, I'm not sure about the grammar in that sentence, but I think you get the gist. This lot had a Top Ten US hit back in 1965 which sold a million copies and presumably kept them in Mai Tais for at least a week. Lead singer and songwriter Jim Donna is still in the Castaways, who now appear to be available to hire as a wedding band, should you be planning on tying the knot in the Minnesota area. 

Their big hit (included in the soundtrack to Good Morning Vietnam) benefits from a video, which is the most quaintly 1960s thing you will see all week...


One year later, and another bunch of liars took the name Castaways. These guys were from Lake Charles, Louisiana, a town later immortalised by Lucinda Williams. They would soon change their name to The Sound Rebellion. 


It's 1967 now, and that's all I can tell you... other than that this lot were also known as The Beepers.

That was their only release, so clearly nobody came back for more.


Here we find the Kiwi Castaways in 1968. They'd been recording since the early 60s with original frontman, Peter Nelson, until he was lured away by Cilla Black's husband, Bobby Willis, who promised to make him a solo star. The Castaways continued, drafting in new singer Frankie Stevens, who's clearly taken some lessons from Tom Jones...


Classy soul number from 1968...


And more soulful Castaways from sometime in the 60s, hailing from Augusta, Georgia.


Into the 70s now and an Illinois band who released one single: a cover of Midnight Special on the A Side and this self-penned B Side...


Here's a crew of Castaways from Birmingham in 1971. That's Birmingham in the Midlands, not Birmingham, Alabama... though they do sound like they hail from the other side of the pond.


Look at these guys! From 1980, but still dressing like it's the 70s. What a bunch of dudes.


Retro rock n roll band from... I dunno, sometime, some place... I mean I wouldn't have included them except for the song title, which made my inner 14 year old guffaw.


French Castaways from 2016 with a cool, girl-punk sound...


Southern Californian pop punk Castaways from about ten years ago...


Liverpudlian songwriter David Silcock appears to be one of those artists who made a name for himself during lockdown. And as soon as restrictions were lifted, he blagged his way into Abbey Road...


Bang up to date with some Tasmanian hip hop...


And finally, some Brazilian alt-rockers who can't make up their minds...

Rather disturbingly, one of the band appears to go off and take a nature dump about half way through the video. I point this out for anyone who doesn't believe I listen to these things all the way through...

Which Castaways would you like to find on your desert island... and which ones would you cast away?

Monday 29 April 2024

Celebrity Jukebox #126: Marie Prevost

Canadian actress Marie Prevost was one of the original stars of the silent movie era, appearing in dozens of films throughout the 1920s and early 30s, although many of these are now lost to the sands of time (no intact reels remain). Her career went into decline when the talkies arrived, and her subsequent life was marred by the tragic death of her mother, alcoholism and binge eating. She died in 1937, aged just 40, but as she lived alone, her body wasn't found until two days later when her neighbours complained to police about the noise of her barking dog.

Which is where the myth of Marie Prevost begins. Police noted at the time that there were small bite marks on her legs, which the coroner suggested came from her dog nipping its owner to try and wake her up. In his book Hollywood Babylon, controversial writer Kenneth Anger suggested the dog made "mincemeat out of his mistress" in order to survive, though this has since been proved a fabrication. 

All of which brings us to Nick Lowe, and his Anger-influenced retelling (and re-spelling) of Marie Prevost's life, a song which manages to fall somewhere between a touching examination of the fickleness of fame... and a rather sensationalised tabloid joke. I've got a lot of respect for Nick Lowe as a songwriter, but Marie Provost is very much the work of a young songwriter, influenced by the outrage of punk, looking to make his mark. Subtlety only comes with age, I guess...

Marie Provost was a movie queen
Mysterious angel of the silent screen
And run like the wind
The nation's young men steam
When Marie crossed the silent screen
Oh she came out west from New York
But when the talkies came
Mary just couldn't cope
Her public said Mary take a walk
All the way back to New York

As her nights grew long
And her days grew bleak
It's all downhill
Once you've passed your peak
Mary got ready for that last big sleep
The cops came in
And they looked around
Throwing up everywhere over
What they found
The handywork of Marie's little dachshund
That hungry little dachshund

Sunday 28 April 2024

Saturday Snapshots #341: A Top Ten Abba Covers

When I asked if you knew who was pictured below, you resolutely replied, "I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do..." 

But Does Your Mother Know the connection...?

10. Smashed up Z-Cars.


The Czars - Angel Eyes

9. When a Snapshot maker's clue is particularly hard to decipher.

A camera makes snapshots. This one might be a bit obscure though...

Camera Obscura - Super Trouper

8. Half Boy, Half Pickett.

Danny Boy meets Wilson Pickett...

Danny Wilson – Knowing Me, Knowing You

7. Get some unanimous okra mixed into your green salad. 

"Unanimous okra" was an anagram for the biggest selling female of all time (depending on which figures you look at).

Nana Mouskouri – I Have A Dream

6. Found in a shoe box.

A shoe box.

Ash - Does Your Mother Know?

5. Bus, Bunch, Blood, Bees... all washed out.

Pale Honey - Lay All Your Love On Me 

4. Obliteration.

Erasure - Take A Chance On Me

3. Keeps Clapton's clothes clean while he's eating. 

Eric Bibb - Dancing Queen

2. DOA Hipster comes apart.

"DOA Hipster" is an anagram...

Portishead - SOS

1. White mites, white eat. 

Blanc is white. Mange is caused by mites, but it also means eat in French.

Blancmange - The Day Before You Came

Indisputably the best Abba cover version ever...

Here are a few I didn't have room for...

Sinead O'Connor - Chiquitita 

The Volebeats - Knowing Me, Knowing You

Bike - My Love, My Life 

Red Kross - Dancing Queen

Information Society - Lay All Your Love On Me

Five Iron Frenzy – Mamma Mia

Richard Thompson – Money, Money, Money

Take A Chance On more Snapshots next Saturday.

Saturday 27 April 2024

Saturday Snapshots #341

Welcome along to another edition of Snapshots, where I give you a real Sophie's Choice... do you identify all the artists below first to help you work out the connection... or will spotting the link help you name the performers?

Let's see how quickly you solve it this week...

10. Smashed up Z-Cars.

9. When a Snapshot maker's clue is particularly hard to decipher.

8. Half Boy, Half Pickett.

7. Get some unanimous okra mixed into your green salad. 

6. Found in a shoe box.

5. Bus, Bunch, Blood, Bees... all washed out.

4. Obliteration.

3. Keeps Clapton's clothes clean while he's eating. 

2. DOA Hipster comes apart.

1. White mites, white eat. 

Head on back to Marvin's Room... or My Top Ten as it's otherwise known... for the answers tomorrow morning. 

Friday 26 April 2024

The List #3: Records I Can't Buy

A few more songs from the never-ending list of tunes I'm trying to keep up with... and this time, it's all tunes I can't buy on CD.

Often, I find myself listening to an album on the interweb or via some other magical means, and I like it so much that I want a copy on the shelf. Lately however, I've come across a number of records that are just not available on CD. In some cases, it's a vinyl (or cassette!?) only release... in other cases, the record is only available digitally, like this one from Howell Dawdy...

I've featured tracks from Howell's 2021 album Smells Like Love here before. It's only 8 songs long, but every one's a winner and I'd gladly shell out some coppers for a physical copy. Sadly, Howell appears to be an internet-only guy...

In a similar vein, we find Norwegian Americana star Harald Thune, whose 2020 album The Backbounceability of Humans was a particular favourite during Lockdown. 

Harald's website is a little sparse, with spaces for biog and tour details, but not even a tab for shopping, and his music appears only to be available via streaming. Which is a shame, because there's a Harald-shaped hole on my CD shelf...

Kevin Morby is considerably more well known than either Harald or Howell, yet his last record was only released on vinyl. 

This is a tragedy as it's a companion piece to his previous album, 2020's This Is A Photograph, a CD that has pride of place in my collection. I'd love to own a piece of plastic and paper containing the follow-up, but it looks unlikely to happen...

Finally today, it's these guys again.

So desperate am I to own a CD copy of the debut album by Wolves of Glendale that I went on their website (where it's vinyl only, I'm afraid) and emailed them through the "Contact Us" link asking if a CD was forthcoming. No reply. 

Maybe CDs really are a dead format.

Oh well, here's a cautionary tale about the hidden dangers of gym membership...

Thursday 25 April 2024

Product Placement #26: WH Smith

It's a sad day for Huddersfield with the announcement that our local WH Smith is closing down. The Piazza Shopping Centre, a wonderfully 70s concrete carbuncle (built two years before I was born) is to be demolished and replaced with some shiny space age Jetson's promenade... and Smiths has elected not to seek an alternative location in the town. 

There are those who argue (quite vocally on local areas of the book of faces) that Huddersfield town centre has been dying slowly for years now, and that this is another nail in its coffin. I'd rather not be drawn into such debates. The town centre where I spent many a happy Saturday morning with my mum, stopping off at all the local newsagents (including Smiths) to see what new comics I cold find... that place is long gone. But so is the culture that fed it. Back then, in the pre-internet era, I could buy four comics for a pound. Nowadays I'd be lucky to buy one and get change from a fiver. You can't turn back the hands of time.

Here are a few songs in honour of WH Smith. You may have won the battle with John Menzies, but nothing lasts forever...

Let's start not in Yorkshire, but over t'other side o' Pennines...

I kissed my girl, by PC World
I dropped me crisps, outside WHSmiths
They chopped down that tree, to build a KFC

Even further West, they still get their comics from WH Smiths... but I'm not sure they're paying for them...

Then on W.H. Smiths, I steal some books, some graphic novels and some comics
And I spend the afternoon in Maccy D's
Drinking milk shake, reading Spiderman and Tank Girl

Meanwhile, up in the North East, Richard Dawson pops into Smiths during this autobiographical epic...

I'm starting a BTEC in Engineering at Tynemouth College
My thermos flask leaks parsnip soup on the metro
Clogging up the keys of my MacBook
Carrot pennies steam amidst a pyre of pencils
Ruck-sack dripping up the steps of WH Smith's
To buy a fresh pad of paper

The next track is also a very personal tune, from a collection written during lockdown. I can't find out much about the artist, but he's definitely a Slow Burner...

More autobiography to close, from a Southerner - the wonderful Eddie Argos...

Another time I'd overheard you saying you were going into town
And at the time I lived right in between two towns, but I wasn't quite sure which one you meant
So I bought a bus pass, I went to both of them, and frantically looked for you everywhere
And when I finally saw you at WH Smith's, I got scared

Wednesday 24 April 2024

Self-Help For Cynics #30: Anti-Social Media

Back to our old friend Tiberius. 

Alabama 3 - Facebook.con

Tiberius isn't on Snappychat or Instagrass or any of the newer-fangled social networking sites. He checks in with the Book of Faces once or twice a day, mostly to keep up with old friends, drop the occasional witticism and play along with the daily quizzes one or two of his more eccentric peers post. And he quit Tweeter (which he'd rarely used anyway) when Elon Musk turned it into a dystopian autocracy named after an LA band featuring Exene Cervenka, John Doe, Billy Zoom and D. J. Bonebrake. 

In terms of the pressures of social media then, Tiberius is living quite a mentally-healthy life. Unlike the average teenager...

A survey published earlier this year suggests that almost half of British teenagers are addicted to social media. Here's a selection of comments from the mouths of actual teenage young people in The Times of London last month...

“If I went an hour without my phone, I would be really stressed.”

“I was talking to people online when I was ten.”

“I would much rather have been born in the Eighties. I would have been working a lot harder.”

“You get a buzz if someone likes your comment. So a phone does give you quite a lot of validation, which is unhealthy in large doses – but it does feel good.”

That last one brings us back to Tiberius. Because, as previously mentioned, Tiberius does write a blog. Something which he claims he only does as a way of relaxing and focusing his mind on his two main interests - music and writing. Tiberius frequently states that he does this purely for himself, that it doesn't matter if other people read his witterings or leave an agreeable comment, and yet... and yet...

Remember our discussion about the benefits and pitfalls of writing?

Remember our brief look at that wonderful feel-good brain chemical dopamine?

According to Dr. Anna Lembke of Stanford University’s dual diagnosis addiction clinic, we are all dopamine addicts when it comes to social media (and that must include blogging). According to the Grauniad...

She calls the smartphone the “modern-day hypodermic needle”: we turn to it for quick hits, seeking attention, validation and distraction with each swipe, like and tweet.

(I couldn't resist slipping that one in. I know: I'm beyond hope.)

Social media, and the internet at large, is directly responsible for the rise in unhappiness in the developed world over the past 30 years. Could the microcosm of the blogosphere be just as responsible for this as TikTok, Tinder and Pornhub? Surely it's not as bad as those appalling supervillains? Well, if it's encouraging our dopamine addiction... maybe.

Dopamine causes addiction because of how the brain works in response to it. After any pleasurable experience (which causes a dopamine release), the brain responds with a process called homeostasis. Which basically uses the lyrics of Pete Seeger's Turn! Turn! Turn! (or the Book of Ecclesiastes, if you want to get Biblical) as a template for self-regulation.

A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones
A time to gather stones together

Or you might say it's following Newton's Third Law, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

In other words, for every up... there must follow a down. Or a downer, to be more precise.

When we binge on pleasurable things, homeostasis means “our brain compensates by bringing us lower and lower and lower,” says Lembke. Each time the thing becomes less enjoyable, but we eventually become dependent on those stimuli to keep functioning. We spiral into a joy-seeking abyss. 

And when it comes to the internet, there's nothing to stop us feeding our addiction. If we're hooked on booze or drugs, eventually we'll run out of the substance in question, or run out of the funds needed to procure them. If you're addicted to social media because of the tiny dopamine spikes that come from a like or a thumbs up or a smiley... or a blogging comment... then short of them turning off your electric (and the batteries on all your mobile devices dying simultaneously), there's nothing to stop you gorging yourself to the point of gluttony. 

Which makes Tiberius question... how much blogging is too much blogging? Is up to (and sometimes over) a thousand words a day just too much? In devoting so much time to the dopamine-inducing thrill of blogging, is he denying himself the comedown? What is that doing to his brain?

More on this next time...

Tuesday 23 April 2024

Namesakes #82: Cast

The problem with calling yourselves Cast is that you're immediately fighting it out with the Cast recordings of every Broadway show in history. Not to mention The Cast of Hollyoaks, The Cast of Casualty or The Cast Of Grange Hill (et al.) whenever they choose to release a record.

Remember kids - Just Say No!

Beyond that, Cast is a pretty dull name for a band. Will any of these acts rise above their mediocre monikers? You decide...


Mexican symphonic prog band who first got together in 1978... and were still going strong in 2021. I'm sure that many of you will be pleased to hear that they are "similar in style to early Genesis".


Sweetly synthy soul from Italy in 1980...


Canadian metal band from the early 90s. 

The lead singer has a very nice purple shirt.


In 1991, bassist John Power left The La's because he was sick of playing the same songs every night for 6 years while Lee Mavers tried to get them to sound the way they did in his head. Or something like that. Those with far more time than me can fill you in on the comical history of The La's, I'm sure. Anyway, Power went off with the drummer from Shack and a couple of other guys and formed a band which Noel Gallagher once described as a "religious experience". I think you can all make up your own punchlines to that.

I was a huge Britpop kid (well, as I was in 20s, but I still felt like a kid)... but I never got too excited about Cast. I mean, they were slightly more appealing than Oasis, but then so is dysentery.

Perhaps the best that can be said about them is that they were Alright...


This is the sound of Norwegian hip hop in 2005...


And here's some Romanian hip hop from a similar epoch. I would say it keeps them off the streets, but looking at the video, that's clearly not the case.


Something a little gentler on the ears to finish today. Ben and Jessica are from Vancouver, and this is how they sounded just last year...

Which Cast would you cast? And which Cast would you cast aside?

Monday 22 April 2024

No Comment

A little blogging post today...

I don't appear to be getting comment notification emails from blogger anymore. and I wondered if I was the only one?

This started a few months back, but I usually found that at least if I left a reply to someone else's comment and ticked the box, then I would receive subsequent comments in my inbox. Now even that has stopped working. 

This isn't so bad for that day's post as I can check in and see if there are any comments to read and reply to, but as it also effects previous day's posts, I find myself having to check back through the past week and discovering new comments I've missed.

Is anyone else having the same issue? I've also found it to be true when I leave a comment on another blogger-based blog - like Charity Chic's. I no longer receive a notification to tell me if there's been a reply. One of the things I enjoy most about the blogosphere is the fun little conversations that crop up in comments boxes, but I'm finding it increasingly difficult to keep up with them now the notifications have stopped. I've checked my spam folder in case they'd started going in there, but no joy. Wordpress comments still appear to be working fine.

Those of you who are on blogger - is this happening to you also? And for anyone else who leaves a comment on this blog, do you still get notifications if someone replies? Is it just me?

Sunday 21 April 2024

Saturday Snapshots #340: A Top Ten Caribbean Songs

Snapshots invites you to a Caribbean beach today, all expenses paid. I figured Barry Bloom and the Gibson Brothers would give this week's link away, but I had to avoid the really obvious songs...

Typically Tropical - Barbados 

The Beginning Of The End - Funky Nassau

Billy Ocean - Caribbean Queen 

(Although I'm fascinated by that last one, particularly the snazzy grey sweater that Billy wears in the video which appears to have a rip in the shoulder. Couldn't someone have bought him a new one for the shoot?)

10. Classical superhero meets Alex The Frozen Chimp in top gear.

Bach-Man! Alex Turner! Over-drive!

Bachman Turner Overdrive - Jamaica

Amazingly, that's the first time BTO has ever featured on Snapshots. But... you ain't seen nothin' yet!

9. Top of the Corner Shops.

The Kings Of Convenience - Cayman Islands

8. Flowery copper.

7. Badgers paint their homes for camouflage. 

Badgers live in setts. Badgers are black and white, so for camouflage they would live in...

6. The kids were just crass... with God-given ass.

Lyrics from Ziggy Stardust. The missing line is, of course, "he was the Nazz".

5. All the Bee Gees' kids were boys.

The Gibbs' sons were all brothers. (For the benefit of this clue, at least.)

4. Nice Guy, and he's loaded.

Nice Guy Eddie has lots of money.

3. Ache as I say twist.

Twist the letter in "ache as I say" to reveal...

2. Irony & carbony martial arts ranking. 

1. Found onboard golden yachts.

Found onboard golden yachts.

Enya - Caribbean Blue

Back to dull grey Blighty Snapshots next weekend... and it'll probably be raining.

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