Sunday, 31 January 2016

My Top Ten Terry Wogan Songs

That's another one gone then.

I grew up listening to Terry Wogan. He was a warm and friendly voice on the radio; he often made me laugh, sometimes till I cried; and like all the best DJs, he introduced me to some great records. Here's ten that will always remind me of old Tel...

10. Franz Ferdinand - The Dark of the Matinee

The only pop song I know that mentions Terry by name, and that's what drew my attention to Franz Ferdinand in the first place. It's about a band starting out and dreaming of a better future - including an interview on Wogan.
So I'm on BBC2 now, telling Terry Wogan how I made it
What I made is unclear now, but his deference is and his laughter is
My words and smile are so easy now
Yes, It's easy now
Yes, It's easy now
It's a curious, dreamlike interlude in the song which doesn't quite fit with the rest, but that's what makes it great. It certainly helped lift Franz Ferdinand a step above other turn-of-the-century guitar bands like the Libertines, though I'm not sure they ever did anything so self-consciously odd again. 

9. Ray Moore - O' My Father Had A Rabbit

I resisted including The Floral Dance or any of Terry's own musical recordings (although he did have a damned fine voice and if you can track down his duet with Cerys Matthews on Que Sera Sera, recorded for Children In Need a few years back, you'll be amazed), but I couldn't resist this. For many years, Ray Moore presented the show before Terry on Radio 2. Moore was a quiet, very well spoken gentleman representative of the old school BBC, with a wickedly subversive sense of humour (much like Tel himself). Somehow, Moore's jokey charity record based on a rhyme from his Liverpudlian childhood reached #24 in the charts in 1986. Sadly, he died of cancer in 1989, but not before being reunited with his old radio sparring partner one last time... 

8. Billie Jo Spears - What I've Got In Mind

When I posted my initial reaction to Terry's death with the video for my #2 song, saying how it always reminded me of Terry, my old pal Sally responded immediately that she agreed... and then mentioned Billie Jo Spears. A few weeks back, I picked up a Billie Jo CD in the local charity shop and was surprised by how many of them I remembered... from a long, long time ago. My misspent youth: listening to Terry Wogan on the wireless.

7. Glen Campbell - Rhinestone Cowboy

Any excuse to play some Glen (and Jimmy Webb). I thought about crowbarring the Greatest Record Ever Recorded in here again, but it's Rhinestone Cowboy, not Wichita Lineman, that reminds me more of Terry.

I guess I can trace my love of country music to Sir Terence. While rock and indie and alt-everything else came later, Radio 2 was the station I listened to as a small child, and Terry introduced me to many of my favourite country singers. 

6. Clifford T. Ward - Home Thoughts From Abroad

Apparently, the album this comes from was Terry's all-time favourite 33 1/3. I didn't know that till compiling this post, but I did know the song... thanks to Tel.

Clifford T. Ward slips into the Nick Drake category - a heartbreaking singer-songwriter too shy and retiring to play the fame game. One listen to this song will tell you he could have been massive... if he'd had the confidence.

Couldn't we all...

5. Peter Gabriel - That'll Do

Written by Randy Newman, who only does film scores these days, this was the theme to the second Babe film, Pig In The City. Getting Peter Gabriel to record it along with Paddy Moloney of the Chieftains and the Black Dyke Mills brass band lifted it beyond the schmaltz of its roots, turning it into something really quite moving. When Terry appeared on Desert Island Discs, he chose this as the favourite of all his selections.

4. Harry Nilsson - Without You

The record that was at Number One in March 1972, the month I was born. A couple of weeks later, Terry Wogan took over the Radio 2 breakfast show and became the most recognisable radio voice of my childhood. And he played this song a lot...

3. Charlie Dore - Pilot of the Airwaves
I've been listening to your show on the radio
And you seem like a friend to me...
Says it all, really.

2. Harry Chapin - W.O.L.D.

Another favourite of Tel's, for obvious reasons as it's about a morning radio jock who's feeling his age. There's a radio edit of the song that ends a little happier than the album version, but I'm sure Terry used to play the original, sadder version. (I might be wrong: my memory makes its own rules.) Hearing this song on Terry's show when I was a kid introduced me to the late great Harry Chapin and I've been a fan ever since. 

1. Hoyt Axton - Della & The Dealer

I've been wanting to feature this song here for a while. It's a longtime favourite of mine and I know for certain it was Terry who introduced me to it. I've never heard anyone else play it on the radio, and I'm not sure I'd have heard of Hoyt Axton (beyond his most famous role as Zach Galligan's dad in Gremlins) otherwise. It was the first song that came to mind when I heard about Terry's death, so it makes Number One today...
If that cat could talk, what tales he'd tell,
About Della and the Dealer and the dog as well.
But the cat was cool,
And he never said a mumblin' word...

Good night, Terry. Dallas wouldn't have been the same without you...

Friday, 29 January 2016

My Top Ten Oh Yeah Songs

Ed Rooney, ladies and gentlemen. Oh yeah. Here's his song, plus 9 more that say OH YEAH...

10. The Crystals - Oh Yeah, Maybe Baby

B-side to the first ever Crystals single, There's No Other (Like My Baby), from 1961. Pretty standard Wall of Sound production... Spector may have been a nutter, but he knew how to make a great record.

9. Bat For Lashes - Oh Yeah

From the third B4L album, the one where Natasha Khan appears naked on the cover apart from a strategically placed (also naked) man. You're going to have to google that, aren't you? Lately, she's been doing Sexwitch stuff with Toy (not a euphemism). About time for a proper comeback, I think.

8. Brad Paisley - Oh Yeah, You're Gone

A pretty standard bluesy-country ballad, enlivened by the mundane detail of the lyrics contrasted with the constant reminder of the title. Brad does this kind of thing so well.

7. The Subways - Oh Yeah

Sounding like Welwyn Garden City's answer to The Strokes on this one; The Subways' secret weapon was the male-female vocal combo of Billy Lunn and Charlotte Cooper. It works well here.

6. Joan Jett & The Blackhearts - Do You Wanna Touch Me? (Oh Yeah)

Now that's what I call a rhetorical question. You really didn't need to give us the answer in brackets, Joan.

5. Dweeb - Oh Yeah, Baby

Forgotten cartoony-Britpop band who deserved to be bigger than they were. They don't even have an iffypedia page... the only reference I can find for them is on the page for [dweeb], another indie guitar band who came along a few years later and had a similar level of success. Obviously not a name that was destined for greatness.

4. Roxy Music - Oh Yeah

I'm not sure I ever really got Roxy Music, but this is one of many decent singles from them. It's a little bit too wine bar to be rock 'n' roll, but it still sounds nice when you hear this band playing on the radio, with its rhythm of rhyming guitars... (whatever that means).

3. The Magnetic Fields - Yeah! Oh, Yeah!

How many truly great triple albums can you name? I can only think of one, and it's The Magnetic Fields' finest hour (well, 2.8 hours): 69 Love Songs. Here, Claudia Gonson tries to mend bridges with her estranged "husband", played by Fields mastermind Stephin Merritt, but he's having none of it...
When we met I thought
Money was everything
So I let you buy the house,
The car, the ring
But I can't take your perpetual whining
And you can't sing!
And then things turn really dark...

2. Ash - Oh Yeah

A summertime teenage romance writ large with anthemic guitars and Tim Wheeler's angel faced vocals. Can't help but remind me of being a teenager... even though I was 24 when it came out.

1. Yello - Oh Yeah

If Sparks had come from Switzerland (rather than LA), they might have been Yello. Dieter Meier and Boris Blank were conceptual artists first, popstars second. (Arguably, Meier didn't need pop success, he was a millionaire industrialist before Yello were even formed, not to mention being a professional poker player AND a member of the Swiss national golf team.)

Oh Yeah oozes 80s from every pore. The stop motion video is like Morph meets Peter Gabriel meets Tales of the Unexpected. Although the song wasn't a big chart hit, it did soundtrack three big 80s movies - yuppie-com The Secret of My Success with Michael J. Fox, cop buddy movie K9 with James Belushi and a German Shepherd, and most memorably of all, possibly the greatest 80s movie of all (after Back To The Future): Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Gummy bear?

Which one makes you go...?

Friday, 22 January 2016

My Top Ten Yeah Yeah Songs

I really wanted to pay tribute to the late Glenn Frey this week (far too many of our heroes are dying young at the moment), but sadly I'm moving house* on Monday so I don't have a spare second. But Glenn... you'll be missed.

(*I would have reposted My Top Ten Songs About Moving House, but as it's only 18 months since our last move - don't ask - it seemed too soon.)

Instead, here's one I prepared earlier...

It all begins with The Beatles... or so they say. Of course, the Beatles didn't invent rock 'n' roll, but maybe they did invent pop music. OK, pop music had been around for a long time before the Fab Four hit the Cavern, but maybe pop music wouldn't mean what it means today if it hadn't been for the Beatles. I dunno, Bob Stanley or someone far smarter than me about pop music will have a theory on that, I'm sure. Anyway, ten songs indebted, one way or another, to the chorus hook of She Loves You, since, if we can only agree on one thing today, it's that the Beatles surely invented the idea of putting more than one yeah together in a song lyric.

Yeah, yeah, yeah...

Oh, and special mention, of course, to Karen O and The Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

10. Spiritualized - Yeah Yeah

"It's like the Kings of Leon..... but good," is the funniest youtube comment I've read this week.

J. Spaceman is still a bit of a dick though. More incisive musical criticism to follow.

9. Cyndi Lauper - Yeah Yeah

Sometimes, even at the height of her fame, Cyndi was a little bit too kooky for her own good.

8. Cheap Trick - Yeah Yeah

Before they became leading lights of the power pop scene, Cheap Trick had more of a hard rock sound on their eponymous debut album in 1977. Twenty years later, they released a second eponymous album which harkened back to their early days. This comes from that.

7. Jackson Browne - Yeah Yeah

This one's only from a couple of years ago, but it sounds like it could have been lifted from Browne's 70s heyday. The guitar also sounds very reminiscent of Warren Zevon's Werewolves of London, but as Browne produced that and was good friends with Warren, we'll let him off.

6. Black Grape - Yeah Yeah, Brother

Dedicated to the woman who betrayed Shaun Ryder.

You wouldn't want that on your cv.

5. The Pioneers - Let Your Yeah Be Yeah

Written and produced by Jimmy Cliff, taking a biblical quotation (Matthew 5:37, scripture fans) and turning it into a chat up line. The reggae original is the most well-known very, but Brownsville Station also did a pretty cool hard-rocking version too.

4. The Pogues - Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah

What if the Pogues had been around in the 60s? They might have appeared on Ready, Steady, Go as in this video recreation... but I don't think Shane would have been allowed to sing, "I love your breasts, I love your thighs".

3. Georgie Fame & The Blue Flames - Yeh Yeh

Clive Powell wasn't a very rock 'n' roll name, was it? Apparently, Clive / Georgie holds an interesting Top Ten record. The only three Top Ten singles he ever scored all went to Number One. He released plenty more singles, but the only ones that got into the Top Ten all went to the top of the chart. This was one of them... I'm sure you can guess the other two.

They Might Be Giants did a great cover of this too.

2. The Wedding Present - Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah

Always willing to go that extra Yeah to get your attention, David Gedge plays International Man of Mystery in this classic Weddoes single from Watusi. 

1. The Flaming Lips - The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song

Just as mental as anything else the Flaming Lips have ever recorded, but with an added political element. Wayne Coyne claims the song isn't only pointing the finger at clueless politicians but also asking us what we would do if we were in the same position.

I never copy stuff word for word from iffypedia, but their description of the video is even more funny than the video itself...
The music video has three segments. In the first, Asian women forcibly tape hamburgers to a businessman and then he is let loose, chased by several shirtless obese men and watched by amused but non-interfering police officers. In the second segment, a woman resembling Gwen Stefani similarly covered by doughnuts (suggesting that the three Asian women are supposed to criticize Stefani's objectification of her entourage of four women who play "Harajuku Girls"), and is chased by the police officers. In the third segment, Wayne Coyne - who portrays a ruthless leader - has raw steaks and some lengths of intestine stapled to him and gets chased by a werewolf.

Which one makes you go Yeah Yeah Yeah? And which one makes you go No No No?

Friday, 15 January 2016

My Top Ten Hymns

This week, I give thanks for ten fine examples of pop praise.

Specials mentions to Hymns and The Verve's classic album Urban Hymns.

10. The Charlatans - I'll Sing A Hymn (You Came To Me)

I came across a good haul of Charlatans CDs in a local charity shop recently and was able to stock up my collection beyond the obvious titles. This is from their 2004 album Up At The Lake, apparently the only Charlies album never to receive an American release (not sure why, but whenever they do release records in the US they have to stick a UK on the end of their name because of an obscure American band from the 60s). Iffypedia tells me this particular song was only available on the UK release of the album - again, not sure why, it's a perfectly decent laid-back, Stonesy groove.

9. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Cannibal's Hymn
But if you're gonna dine with them cannibals
Sooner or later, darling, you're gonna get eaten
The above might seem like a statement of the bleeding obvious, but Nick still makes it sound bad-ass. 

8. Don Henley - She Sang Hymns Out Of Tune

I originally came across this song on Harry Nilsson's album Pandemonium Shadow Show but I hadn't listened to that in years, so it took me a while when I heard Don Henley's version (on last year's Cass County) to work out where I knew it from. It was originally written by Jesse Lee Kincaid, a member of 60s folk-rock band Rising Sons along with Ry Cooder and Taj Mahal.

I've listened to the lyrics of this song a lot trying to work out what they're all about... there's a spooky, otherworldly quality to them. The People Who Are strike me as the sort you don't want to mess with.

7. The Decemberists - January Hymn / June Hymn

Two contrasting hymns from The King Is Dead album (Colin Meloy was always a huge Smiths fan). The first is an ode to shovelling snow, the second a celebration of pegging out your washing. Ironically, it's the latter which appears to steal its chords from Simon & Garfunkel's I Am A Rock (y'know, the one that begins 'A winter's day, In a deep and dark December...')

6. Roddy Frame - Hymn To Grace

Aztec Camera were a brilliant band, but I sometimes feel Roddy Frame has done better work since he packed in his famous job and turned solo. In the one-man-and-a-guitar stakes, he takes some beating.

5. The Magic Numbers - Hymn To Her

Kill all hippies.

No, I like The Magic Numbers. This is from their first album, when they showed the most promise. You have to wonder if, in our looks-obsessed culture, lead singer Romeo Stoddard's Steven Toast meets Giant Haystacks image prevented the band from getting on any magazine covers. Shame...

Of course, this wasn't the most famous song with that awful pun-title. I'm presuming Romeo stole it from the band at #3.

4. Hefner - The Hymn For Cigarettes

Hefner have written more hymns than Charles Wesley or Isaac Watts (look: if I can google them, you can). See also The Hymn For Alcohol, The Hymn For Coffee, The Hymn For The Things We Didn't Do, etc. etc. This one's my favourite. Although I've never been a smoker, I like the way Darren Hayman pays tribute to all his favourite cigarette brands, but mostly I like it because it contains one of the greastest questions in the history of pop...
How can she love me 
If she doesn't even love 
The cinema that I love?
3. The Pretenders - Hymn To Her

Written by Chrissie's old school pal, Meg Keene, this is as close as The Pretenders ever got to becoming Fleetwood Mac. Apparently there are pagan themes to the lyrics, which would have fit the White Witch, Stevie Nicks, very well. Chrissie even sounds like Stevie on this.

Before she became famous, Chrissie Hynde worked for the NME. Among others, she interviewed Brian Eno, Tim Buckley and David Cassidy. Not Nicks though... I wonder if she was a Mac fan?

2. James - Hymn From A Village

From their second EP, released in 1985 (their first record was out in '83!). It's still a pretty powerful mission statement from a band just starting out...
This song's made up, made second rate
Cosmetic music, powderpuff
Pop tunes, false rhymes, all lightweight bluffs
Second-hand ideas, no soul, no hate
Wasn't mean to be
Built on complacency
The nightmares ride away
When you refuse to play
Oh go and read a book
It's so much more worth while
Being a song-smith crook
Study death in style
Death in style
And thirty years later, they're still at it. Their 14th album, Girl At The End of the World, will be out in March.

1. Fleet Foxes - White Winter Hymnal

I bang on a lot on this site about how much I love storytelling songs and how important lyrics are to me, but I have to confess I've never really paid much attention to the lyrics of White Winter Hymnal. I know it's about something, and there's some wonderful imagery, but the effect the song has on me is purely down to the sound: the harmonies and the canon effect work together to make this a mesmerising piece of music. When something sounds this good, I don't need to know what it's all about.

As we move house next week, I'd be thankful if the white winter can stay away this year, please.

Which is your Lord of the Dance?

Monday, 11 January 2016

My Top Ten David Bowie Songs

*UPDATE: Originally posted in 2012, I'm reposting this today as a tribute. I'm not going to think about whether my song choices have changed - they probably have; they always do. Goodbye, you freaky kook. I'm glad I knew you...*

Compiling these Artist Top Tens is much more difficult than the regular, subject-oriented 10s. If The Smiths was an impossible task, I've virtually given up on Springsteen. I thought Bowie might be easier, but it didn't prove that way. No, I'm not saying that any of the tracks below are necessarily better than Jean Genie, Rebel Rebel, Rock 'n' Roll Suicide... or even This Is Not America. They just mean more to me, for one reason or another.

10. Kooks

Early Dave, at his most romantic, and playful...
And if you ever have to go to school
Remember how they messed up this old fool
Don't pick fights with the bullies or the cads
'Cause I'm not much cop at punching
Other people's Dads
And if the homework brings you down
Then we'll throw it on the fire
And take the car downtown
9. Ashes To Ashes

In my late teens, Scary Monsters was probably my favourite Bowie album. I tried to find a way to squeeze Because You're Young or Teenage Wildlife onto this list, but I'd be lying if I said any of them were better than this. The lyrics below were a major influence on a number of storylines in my 90s small press comic The Jock...
The shrieking of nothing is killing me
Just pictures of Jap girls in synthesis and I
Ain't got no money and I ain't got no hair
But I'm hoping to kick but the planet it's glowing

Time and again I tell myself
I'll stay clean tonight
But the little green wheels are following me
Oh no, not again
I'm stuck with a valuable friend
"I'm happy, hope you're happy too"

One flash of light but no smoking pistol
8. Starman
That weren't no DJ
That was hazy cosmic jive!
7. Oh! You Pretty Things

I'm always a sucker for just one man and his piano... and then that chorus kicks in. Wow. Plus, Dave = Big X-Men fan?
Gotta make way for the homo-superior!
6. Space Oddity

Probably the first Bowie track to have any kind of impact on me. My sister (a good 18 years my senior) was a huge Bowie fan in the 70s* (she used to tease my Dad that he looked like the Thin White Duke - Dad was not amused). Although she moved out soon after I was born (who could blame her?), I probably absorbed this through osmosis in the womb. A semi-autobiographical extract from my last novel follows, in which I explain how, when I was a kid, I imagined I ran my own TV station...
We had Breakfast Television before anybody else. Ready Brek, Weetabix, or bacon and egg with fried bread on weekends; followed by a lift to the bus stop in my dad’s Ford Granada. Hardly gripping viewing, but when your only competition is the Open University, you don’t need too much sensation to snatch the ratings. We beat MTV to the punch too, though admittedly our playlist was limited to the contents of my brother John and sister Candy’s record collections, Mum’s ‘Country Music Greatest Hits’ Box Set from the Readers Digest, and any songs I managed to tape off the Top 40 on a Sunday afternoon, usually with bits of Tony Blackburn talking over the end before I pressed pause. We didn’t have any videos, but sometimes I’d dance around and act out various routines to fit the lyrics. I did a mean ‘Wuthering Heights’ (complete with Kate Bush hand gestures) and a moody ‘I’m Not In Love’. But the one the viewers raved about was my ‘Space Oddity’. For five and a bit minutes, I actually was floating about in a tin can, and the papers really did want to know where I got my shirts. BHS usually, very occasionally C&A. David Bowie even stopped by to sing a duet, live on air. He said it was a pity I wasn’t around when he recorded that album; he’d have had me on backing vocals for sure.

(*It was my sister who broke the news to me this morning, via text. Kind of appropriate, really.)

5. Golden Years

Just plain funky.
Run for the shadows...
4. Modern Love

The LP Let's Dance is sneered at by purists, but as a child of the 80s it was my first proper teenage exposure to the Madness of King Dave and I love just about every song on it (although the album version of the title track goes on for about 6 weeks and that's really not necessary). Modern Love though - you can't beat Modern Love. From the Michael Caine-esque intro to the idea of Bowie chasing after the paper boy... what's not to love?

3. Heroes

I'm sure many people would have this at Number One (even though - insanely - it only reached #24 in the charts) and I couldn't really argue with any of them. Except... there's two other songs I'd take to a desert island with me first...

2. Changes
Turn and face the strange
Don't want to be a richer man
Turn and face the strange
Just gonna have to be a different man
1. Young Americans

Another controversial choice because a) it's from mid-period Bowie, and b) it features a prominent saxophone (always upsetting to purists)... but the intro gets me every time. Like 75% of Bowie's songs, I've no real idea what it's about, but it doesn't matter.
Ain't there one damn song that can make me break down and cry?
 *Today, there are lots...*


An impossible task, especially today. But which of your favourites will you be playing tonight?


Friday, 8 January 2016

My Top Ten Songs About Bad Drivers

Four times a week, I have a 50 min - 1 hr 10 minute commute to work (depending on whether I'm taking Sam to nursery or not) and this is where I listen to most of my music these days. Most days enjoy the journey - it's country lanes most of the way - but every now and then, a bad driver comes along and spoils it all. Don't get me wrong, I'm not one of those people who thinks he's the best driver on the road. I just think everyone else is worse. ("L'enfer, c'est les autres." Or, "L'enfer, c'est les autos", if you prefer.)

I chose the image above not because Neko Case features in this list, but because you'd hate to meet her coming the other way on your way to work, if that's how she drives...

10. Ferlin Husky - The Drunken Driver

We start out in 1954 with this terrifying anti-drink drive death disc. I think it's fair to say, if you've never heard this before, you've never heard anything like it before. You probably won't ever want to hear it again, unless you have some kind of sick, macabre sense of humour. Or you like tragic 50s death discs. As I do.

9. Half Man Half Biscuit - Blue Badge Abuser

If you're reading this post from outside the UK (and, bizarrely, blogger tells me I have more readers from the rest of the world than I do from my home country), you might not know that a Blue Badge is the thing that allows you to park in a disabled parking space in the UK. And little gets us as hot under the collar as seeing some able-bodied type who's managed to con a Blue Badge out of the council, thereby allowing him to park wherever the chuff he choose. (Personally I get more mad at people who park in the Parent & Child bays but quite clearly have no children... but that's just where I am in my life anymore.)
I park up in the pouring rain
The space was empty, who's to complain?
And if they did, I'd say I'm due for the op
And sprint wilfully off to the shop
A typical Nigel Blackwell rant then, written from the perspective of this "ne'er-do-well of the highest accord".
Fetch my stick, Margaret!
8. Lambchop - I Will Drive Slowly

Presumably, Kurt Wagner is driving slowly to prolong the time he spends with his new love before dropping her off. Which is all very romantic... but a pain in the arse if you're stuck behind him.

Lambchop sound a bit like REM on this one - not something I've ever noticed before.

7. David Bowie - Always Crashing in the Same Car

I'll play this one for Dave on his 69th birthday. New album out today also: I'll get round to it soon as I can afford, Dave.

Released back in '77, this Low album track apparently describes coked up Dave taking revenge on a drug dealer who'd ripped him off, smashing into his car before going for a spin in his hotel's underground garage. They don't make rock stars like they used to.

6. Don Henley - Drivin' With Your Eyes Closed

I'm obviously on a bit of a Don Henley kick at the moment, following last year's comeback album. This is from the same album as his biggest hit, the astounding Boys of Summer, and while it's not in the same league as that, it is a very intriguing record, laced with the usual Henley cynicism and some bizarre references to French poets which I don't understand at all because I'm only an English teacher and the only French writer I can quote is Sartre.

5. Everclear - Volvo Driving Soccer Mom

This is what bad girls become when they grow up. Doesn't mean they become better drivers.

Classic Everclear single from 2003, although none of my muso pals will agree with me when I say this: I see it as kind of the American equivalent of...

4. Morrissey - The Boy Racer

Leave it to Moz to write an ode to that most loathed of bad drivers - he always has a knack for sympathising the underdogs.  Even when he wants to kill them.
He's got too many girlfriends
He thinks he owns this city
He overspeeds and he never gets pulled over
Have you seen him go, though, oh?
The second and final single from the album many consider to be Moz's nadir, Southpaw Grammar, on which he flirts with grunge and 10 minute drum solos. I think Boy Racer stands up well now - but then, when compared to the album's first single, the lamentable Dagenham Dave, this could be How Soon Is Now II.

Oh yeah, and if anyone ever tries to convince you of that old Moz=Miseryguts chestnut, can you kindly direct them here...
He thinks he got the whole world in his hands
Stood at the urinal
He thinks he got the whole world in his hands
And I'm gonna ... kill him!
3. Aimee Mann - Driving Sideways

Aimee at the height of her powers, from an album with a curious story behind it, Bachelor No. 2 or, the Last Remains of the Dodo. Back in 2000 when the album was finished, her record company refused to release it as they felt it wasn't commercial, despite a number of the songs - including this one - already having featured in the hit soundtrack for Paul Thomas Anderson's film Magnolia... you know, the one where Tom Cruise plays a sexist dick.

(Insert your own punchline here.)

Anyway, Aimee bought the music back off her record company (for a shitload, by all accounts) and released it independently via her own website where it became one of the internet's first big sales success stories (CD-wise).

Having said all that, Driving Sideways isn't on the UK edition of Bachelor (which I own) because it was swapped for Save Me (also from the Magnolia soundtrack, and arguably a much better song). Thus endeth today's lesson on semi-obscure Aimee Mann records.

2. Simon & Garfunkel - Baby Driver

Taken literally, this would be one very bad driver indeed. If their feet could reach the pedals, none of us would be safe. Of course, when you get to my age, the average 17 year old looks like a Baby Driver... and watching them scoot down the road always fills me with dread.

Baby Driver is from Bridge Over Troubled Water and was originally the b-side of The Boxer. Jack Kerouac's daughter Janet used the title for her first (semi-autobiographical) novel, released in the early 80s. 

1. Del Amitri - Driving With The Brakes On

I don't feature Del Amitri on this site half as much as I should, because I do consider Justin Currie one of the greatest songwriters of his generation. Gloriously grumpy too, which is why you'd be perfectly in your right to consider this just another one of his "moaning at the world" songs, written after being stuck behind one of those drivers who has to test those new brake lights he got for Christmas every three seconds.

Other interpretations are that the song's about an abortion the male partner was unable to prevent, and his attempts to come to terms with that and whether the relationship has any future. Certainly gives you an alternate reading for the lyrics...
Driving through the long night
Trying to figure who's right and who's wrong
Now the kid has gone. I sit belted up tight,
She sucks on a match light, glowing bronze, steering on.
And I might be more a man if I stopped this in its tracks
And said come on, let's go home. But she's got the wheel,
And I've got nothing except what I have on.
The song's from 1995, though it sounds as far away from Britpop as you could have got and still be a guitar band. At the time, that made Del Amitri unfashionable. 20 years later, it makes them timeless.

Which one drives you crazy?

Sunday, 3 January 2016

My Top Ten Seven Day Songs

Happy New Year from Top Ten Towers. After all the excitement of my 2015 countdown, we now return you to your regular programming: random Top Tens plucked from my record collection. Although the first tune this week kinda breaks that rule.

2016 is a leap year, which means there's one extra day. But although February will now have 29 days, there will be no 8 day weeks... no matter what the Beatles would have you believe. All of which is an extremely tenuous way of introducing this lot...

10. Sting - Seven Days

I was genuinely surprised to discover that there is NO Sting in my record collection. And, as this blog will often demonstrate, I have some UTTER TAT in my record collection. But no Sting. Yeah, I've got The Police, and a few random collaborations, but not one solo Sting tune. I'm not quite sure why. I mean, yes, I do consider him a bit of a tosser, but it's not as though I actively dislike him in the way I actively dislike Bono or the Gallaghers. (And I own music by all three of those idiots.) My favourite Sting song is his version of Spread A Little Happiness from the soundtrack to Brimstone & Treacle, but sadly (some kind of rights issue?), this has never featured on any Sting compilations... otherwise I might have been tempted to buy it.

Anyway, Sting's Seven Days is perfectly adequate Radio 2 filler, and it would have been churlish not to have given it at least a mention once I remembered it.

9. Kenny Chesney - Seven Days

A country holiday romance. Reminds me a bit of Richard Marx or Marc Cohn.

First Sting, then Richard Marx. No a very cool way to start the New Year, is it? 

8. Frank Black - Seven Days

Frank Black might help re-establish my indie credentials a little. This doesn't sound anything like the Pixies, but it's unmistakably Black Francis. Strange, that.

7. Cracker - Seven Days

When Camper Van Beethoven called it a day, David Lowery decided to play it a little more straight with his next band, Cracker. But the old lyrical oddities still crept in...
Bug's got a job in the Catskills
Met some Fraulein along the way
Took her home, but then she had an episode
Though it did disturb him, he was strangely compelled
6. David Bowie - Seven

Hours isn't a classic Bowie album, but this track wouldn't have been out of place on Ziggy Stardust. The guitar certainly has a Mick Ronson flavour. And even though the title doesn't mention days, the chorus does...
I've got seven days to live my life
Or seven ways to die...
5. Feeder - Seven Days In The Sun

Feeder were always a band I kind of half-liked (always loved the singles) but I never bought any of their albums. My newfound love of charity-shopping (inspired, in part, by Charity Chic's excellent blog) has increased my Feeder collection greatly. All for a quid a pop! And they say CDs are dead...

Anyway, this one was obviously made for the US market. It's not a spiky as many of their earlier tracks, but the chunky, Blink 182-esque guitars are fun.

4. Queen - In Only Seven Days

Freddie had a typically flamboyant way of playing the piano, perfectly demonstrated on the intro to this John Deacon-written album track from the 1978 album Jazz. I've got a lot of time for John Deacon, he seems the only surviving Queen member to have kept his self-respect intact, refusing to get involved in any of the band's ridiculous post-Freddie shenanigans.

3. Elvis Costello & Jimmy Cliff - Seven Day Weekend

Taken from the soundtrack of the justly forgotten 1986 "comedy" Club Paradise starring Robin Williams, Peter O'Toole (who was nominated for a Razzie Award for Worst Supporting Actor) and Jimmy Cliff himself. Not sure how they roped Elvis in, but the song still works well. I reckon Elvis's voice was at its absolute best around the mid-late 80s and it blends well with Jimmy's here. I first heard this as a bonus track on the special edition one of my favourite Costello albums, Blood & Chocolate.

Seven Day Weekend is a very popular song title: a few more and I could have done a full Top Ten just based on this title. Examples include Seven Day Weekend by Foghat, Seven Day Weekend by Gary US Bonds (written by Pomus & Schuman), Seven Day Weekend by ABC, Seven Day Weekend by Grace Jones, and probably some others I don't know about.

2. Dexys Midnight Runners - Seven Days Too Long

A cover of the old Northern Soul song by Chuck Wood from 1967... and Chuck's is a pretty damned good version... but I just love me the Dexys. This is from their first ever album, which will soon be 36 years old.

Such facts make me feel ancient and very, very tired. A good way to start the new year.

1. Animals That Swim - Seven Days

Animals That Swim were a curiously beguiling little band formed in the late 80s, though this is from their third (and final... to date) album from 2001. They remind me a lot of the quirky, literate, real life indie written by Stuart Murdoch (Belle & Sebastian) or Shirley Lee (Spearmint). This song tells of a life counted off in ten year birthdays, beginning with my favourite kind of lyrical detail...
On my tenth birthday
I danced naked on the lawn
Making rain fall from a red watering can.

On my twentieth birthday
Slumped in the corner
Wearing Rhiannon's make up and pearls
Clamouring 'Give me attention, please!'
And thus it continues till the narrator abruptly expires on his seventieth, followed by a pithy observation about certain special birthdays...
It seems every time
It gets easier and easier to die.

What a cheerful start to 2016! I'll see you all in 7 days. Or 6. Or 8. Depending.

Please leave a comment before then!

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