Friday, 14 July 2017

My Top Ten 5pm Songs


From 5 am to 5 pm. Let's blow this joint!


10. David Bowie - 5.15 The Angels Have Gone

Heathen isn't Dave's finest hour, but there are some pretty head-scratchingly intriguing songs on there. This is one of them.

9. Astrid - 5 O'Clock

What happens when you're already drunk by five o'clock: you start listening to Astrid.

8. Gang Of Four - 5.45

In which Jon King gets rather upset by the evening news...
How can I sit and eat my tea,
with all that blood flowing from the television?
At a quarter to six,
I watch the news,
Eating, eating all my food
As I sit watching the red spot
In the egg which looks like
All the blood you don`t see on the television.
7. Dolly Parton - 9 To 5

They just use your mind and never give you credit. Sound familiar?

See also The Kinks - Nine To Five

6. The Who - 5.15

Pete & Rog get out of their brain on the train home. Why should I care, why should I care?

5. Chris Isaak - 5:15

A controversial choice, putting this one ahead of The Who, but man... this recording is audio perfection.

4. The Supremes - 5.30 Plane

Post-Diana, Motown drafted in Jimmy Webb to work with The Supremes. Although the resulting album didn't set the charts alight, it contains some absolute gems. Let's face it: it's The Supremes and JIMMY WEBB. What's not to love?
How long have we been waiting for the light to change?
Long enough to know that green is dubious
Long enough to know that there's no sense to us
And the line is pretty long, yeah
Your starter for ten: name another song which features the word 'dubious' in its lyrics. (It is possible.)

3. Alan Jackson & Jimmy Buffet - It's Five O'Clock Somewhere

I think I covered this one well enough in my last post. However, in retrospect, the song below might have been even more appropriate for that story...

2. The Jam - (Just Who Is) The Five O'Clock Hero?

This is one of those Jam singles that I always forget... and forget how good it is.
From this window I've seen the whole world pass
From dawn to dusk I've heard the last laugh laughed
I've seen enough tears to wash away this street
I've heard wedding bells chime and a funeral march

When as one life finishes another one starts...

Alright then, love, so I'll be off now
It's back to the lunchbox and worker / management rows
There's gotta be more to this old life than this
Scrimping and saving and crossing off lists...
1. Julian Cope  - 5 O'Clock World

Originally recorded in 1965 by The Vogues and covered by any number of people since (The Proclaimers, Hal Ketchum, Bowling For Soup, David McCallum... sadly I can't find that last one online, so please help me out if you have it). However, it's Lord Julian of Cope who gives the definitive reading, rewriting the lyrics to include 80's nuclear war paranoia and mixing in a little Petula Clark along the way.

Genius.




Which one would you take home after work?

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

RE-ENTRY: It's Five O'Clock Nowhere


Here's a quick story for you. I know I usually only do these once a month, but it seems most appropriate to post this now because it forms the perfect bridge between my last post, My Top Ten Five a.m. Songs and the next one... My Top Ten Five p.m. Songs. Its title was based on one of the songs in that countdown... well, this one:

Alan Jackson & Jimmy Buffet - It's Five O'Clock Somewhere

I love this song, even though I'm not the biggest Alan Jackson fan. A bit too Stetson-country, even for me, usually. But this is a great working man's hymn, made one hundred times better by the arrival of slacker king and Florida-country icon Jimmy Buffet. If you're one of those people who sits in the office all day waiting for the hands of the clock to hit five... or five thirty... this is the song for you.

What would Jimmy Buffet do?





It's Five O'Clock Nowhere



Sometimes it felt like even the second hand was fighting a losing battle. Karl spent much of his working day scrutinising the clock on the wall opposite his desk, and the more he watched it, the more it seemed like every single tick was a struggle against the inevitable, some wild Canutian battle to continue the forward progress of time when all around them – the clock, and Karl - everything else was trapped in amber.

Now every day was indistinguishable from the ones that surrounded it. The same unremitting routine. For Karl, it always began with email. Five minutes for work (he deleted many of the office memos without reading them, he’d been here long enough now to have read them all before), at least half an hour for his own private hotmail account. A few games of solitaire to get him in the mood, then, if he really felt like it, he might breeze through a couple of reports. He took regular breaks to check certain websites, monitor his eBay bidding, and to see if anyone new had poked him on Facebook, then went for a stroll around the building on the pretext of doing some photocopying or delivering a wrongly sorted item of mail or retrieving an important document from the archive room in the basement. He liked it down there in the archives, though the building work that was going on in adjacent rooms meant it wasn’t as peaceful as it’d once been. Still, he liked the snowflake pattern on the grill outside the windows, and how, if he got up on a box, he could stare out into the street, a feet-level view of the carefree world beyond. He liked to watch the people and wonder why they weren’t in work. Disregarding the kids, pensioners, and housewives, many of the passers-by remained unaccounted for. Deliverymen, council workers, window cleaners – people whose jobs involved moving about the city from one place to another – they made up another percentage, sure, but still not enough to answer for all of them. Some of them, Karl realised, just didn’t have an excuse. They were free, and that was all. Independently wealthy or dole-sponging layabouts, they were one and the same in Karl’s mind. The lucky ones.

After lunch (eaten at his desk because Head Office frowned on employees leaving the building in their lunch hour: what if there was a rush and no-one was around to deal with it?), Karl’s afternoon began with a brief spate of internal correspondence (some of it work-related, much of that deleted unopened, though mostly it was gossip, and the forwarded jokes, pictures and film clips that his colleagues had chanced upon over their sandwiches) before he set into the internet proper. He usually left his favourite worksafe websites ‘til the afternoon sag, the longest part of the day, when Karl needed all the distraction he could get. But even after scanning through all his various bookmarks – news sites, shops, blogs and games; even after downloading and burning another CD’s worth of not-strictly-legal mp3s he’d probably never get time to listen to; even after voting for all the new Hot Or Not girls and wondering for the five hundred and seventy fifth consecutive workday just why the plainer ones put themselves up for it (though he did always take this into account when voting, marking up the mooses, and downgrading the dolly birds)… even after all that: by 3pm, he still hit the flats. 

The flats were when Karl had exhausted every possible diversion the office had to offer, but there were still two hours left to kill. By this point in the afternoon his biorhythms and blood sugar were low, his exasperation and listlessness were high, and if Karl wasn’t careful, moribundity could set in. Sometimes, if absolutely necessary, he’d do a little work to distract himself. Take his mind off the incessant stain of his life, the chronic howl of it all. Other times, if there wasn’t any work that couldn’t be put off, he’d go back down to the archive room and stare out into the street. Wish himself out there, among the foot-loose and fancy-free. A man of means, or a man of no means. From this point in the afternoon, either seemed an occupation devoutly to be wished for. 

By four, he’d be back at his desk – and that was when the serious clock-watching began. With only an hour to go, the atmosphere in the office changed to an unusual mix of electricity and ennui. Postures slumped, eyes drooped then blinked violently alert, but conversations turned to the evening ahead. The drinks, the friends, the bars, the lovers. Films and music and life. Release. By ten to the hour, Karl had his things packed and ready. His final emails sent and websites browsed, he powered down his computer and made ready for escape. This part of the day always reminded him of being back at school, of waiting for the bell that launched everybody from their desks and spewed them out into reality. The tougher teachers always made you wait. Made you sit back down ‘til they’d finished their sentence, checked that you understood the homework, drew out your pain as far as their power could reach. But there were no teachers here, and middle management was just as eager to blow this joint come five o’clock as everybody else. Most days, they were the first ones out the door and into the carpark (unless somebody from Head Office was visiting, in which case they’d mock up devotion and switch on their desk lamps like there was a long night ahead).

Then finally, the silent bell rang. The notional whistle blew. And for a few short hours, this irrelevant enterprise relinquished its hold upon them. Time was no longer for frittering: it was for filling. That most of them went straight home and zombied in front of a flickering box was not the issue - the issue was that had they so wished it, they could have done or gone or been anything else they pleased. At least until the second hand (cracked from its amber, getting only green lights ‘til dawn)
double-quicked back to the 9am capture, where it all started over again. Until then, they were free.

And then one Monday, on the twenty-third of a month like most others, something changed. Karl noticed it first around lunchtime (potted beef, Monster Munch, and a can of Diet Pepsi from the machine), a hiccough in the daily routine of his workmates that became ever more pronounced as the afternoon went on. He tried to distract himself with the usual medley of myspace and minesweeper, but by three o’clock he could feel it in his guts and his water and his chest, in a heartburn those chalky pocket Rennies couldn’t assuage and an urgency in his bladder that usually only came in the middle of the night, when sleep was disturbed by apprehension of the coming grind. Something was different, and by correlation, something was wrong. Four o’clock came and by now it was unquestionable, though part of him was too scared to ask. Part of him didn’t want to know. Why everyone was behaving so strangely, like it was still 10am or 2pm, not nearly 5. Why today there was no late afternoon buzz, no pre-release expectancy, no excitement at all. The electric was off, and the whole place was running on emergency generators only.

Then finally it happened. Or rather, it didn’t. Five o’clock came and nobody moved. Karl, who’d been ready to spring for the last half hour, picked up his things and looked around the office. Still nobody moved. Mice clicked and eyes stared and feet shuffled and everything maintained. Karl didn’t understand. He tapped his watch, but it told the same story as the clock across from his desk, and he’d been watching that tick (like a lame man wading through mud) through the hour. It couldn’t have stopped. He didn’t understand. But neither did he care. He had places to go, even if they didn’t. He had people to see, he had—

“Where’re you going?” asked Lena, looking up from her Mah-jong with a curious pout.

“It’s five,” said Karl, with a tone that added, ‘where do you think I’m going’.

“What?” said Lena. “Didn’t you get the memo? Don’t you watch the news?”

And so she explained it. The new company policy. “In line with recent government legislation, to help make us a more competitive force in the international marketplace post-Brexit, and stave off the tide of outsourcing that’s driving so much of our industry and so many of our jobs overseas, Head Office has instituted a new twenty-four hour working day, commencing this morning at 9am. They’re calculating a projected increase in productivity across the week of… I think they said twenty-five per cent. I can’t quite remember now. God, Karl, where have you been?”

“But, that’s… We can’t… I mean, when do we sleep?”

“Well, obviously, that’s been taken into account. If you need more than a catnap at your desk, the company’s provided us with a comfortable new dormitory in the basement. Though they are asking us to sign up to a rota so that everybody isn’t trying to get in there at the same time – surely you got that email?”

“But…”

“Look, if you don’t like it, you’re allowed to opt for voluntary redundancy if you so… Go and take it up with Michael from HR. Just… I’m very busy!”

Karl left her to her Mah-jong and returned to his desk. He switched his computer back on and waited for it to boot up. He couldn’t just quit – how would he pay off his mortgage? His car? His three grand overdraft and five grand credit cards? Getting another job wouldn’t be that easy. Not one as relaxed as this, with as much freedom to do as he pleased, with no-one breathing down his neck, without the pressure of deadlines and paperwork and… well, work. Sometimes it takes the threat of losing it to make you realise how much of a good thing you’ve got going.

Back down in the archives, after filling in his name on the dormitory rota, Karl climbed up on a box and stared out into the world. Late evening sunlight fell through the grill, the pattern of the snowflakes warming his skin. And though it was almost six o’clock, the street wasn’t any busier now than it had been at eleven, or three. The rush hour was off. People just carried on about their day as though the clock no longer held any dominion over them. And in that respect, at least, now Karl was just as free as everybody else.


Thursday, 6 July 2017

My Top Ten 5am Songs



So there I was, just a few weeks back, complaining about having to get up at 6am. I should have remembered that in the summer, when the wood pigeon outside my bedroom window gets up at 5 o'clock in the morning, 6am is a lie in...

Here's ten bleary-eyed tunes to celebrate the light mornings.



10. Blur - Tracy Jacks

As with much of Parklife-era Blur, I loved Tracy Jacks at the time... but I find Damon's barking gets on my nerves these days. Still, for the good old days, it's worth pointing out that Tracy left home at 5 o'clock in the morning. And the bits where Damon sings rather than shouting are still quite nice.

From the same era (but aging slight better), I also offer Kenickie - 5 a.m.

9. The Village People - Five O'Clock In The Morning

In the early 80s, even The Village People had to accept that disco was dead. Their new wave change of direction (minus their signature costumes and camp) was greeted by derision (yeah, I know the idea of The Village People being treated with derision is hard to grasp) with one critic commenting the album was "simply an embarrassment that never should have seen the light of day." I've not heard the rest of the record, but I do like this song. Which only goes to prove that critics are... and I am... The video is brilliant.

8. Charlotte Gainsbourg - 5:55

You'd never guess that Charlotte was Serge and Jane's daughter. Not from watching this video, anyway. No siree. Maybe there was a mix-up on the maternity ward.

Sarcasm aside, you can pretty much imagine what she gets up to at 5:55. She's not doing the ironing.

Where do the French get their energy from? That's what I want to know.

7. Aphrodite's Child - Five O'Clock

Greek prog with Demis Roussos. I'll play this one for The Swede. Imagine A Whiter Shade Of Pale sung by the Go Compare man. And yet, I love it.

6. Mark Knopfler - 5.15 a.m.

Mark goes back to his Geordie roots. He will mostly be remembered as an axe-man. His lyrics deserve more attention.
The one armed bandit man Came north to fill his boots Came up from cockneyland
E-type jags and flashy suits Put your money in
Pull the levers Watch them spin Cash cows in all the pubs But he preferred the new nightclubs
5. Michelle Shocked - 5 am In Amsterdam

How does Michelle tell the time in the Netherlands? Listen to find out.

4. The Persuaders - A Thin Line Between Love & Hate

A soul classic which is also a hilarious tale of hell having no fury like a woman scorned. When he gets home at five, his lady is all sweetness and light, even offering to make him some toast. Cut to the next verse...
Here  am in the hospital
Bandaged from fee to head
In a state of shock
Just that much from being dead
Didn't think my woman would do something like this
Didn't think my girl had the nerve
Well, here I am
I guess actions speak louder than words...
Hitchcock would be happy with that twist.

3. Lily Allen - Who'd Have Known?

And this is why Lily Allen deserves to be mentioned in the same sentence as Kirsty MacColl.

My Top Ten: proud to have been irking the musos since before 2012.

2. Billy Bragg & Cara Tivey - She's Leaving Home

Apparently this was originally recorded by some obscure 60s combo: sadly I'm not enough of a muso to be familiar with their outfit and obviously their version couldn't have been as good as Billy and Cara's because it didn't even make the chart, unlike this smash hit Number One from 1988.

I'm sorry... Wet Wet Who?

1. Rialto - Monday Morning, 5.19

One of a clutch of classic Rialto singles from the Britpop era which has aged far better than Tracy Jacks. Heartbreaking too.




Which one sounds better than a 5am wood pigeon?

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

NEW ENTRY: The Indelicate Truth About Top Of The Pops



I know, I will go away soon, I promise. First though, I did mention that I was dropping the monthly top ten of what I'm listening to at the moment... but also that I'd come up with an idea of what to replace it with when I just wanted to write about something new. In keeping with this blog's ever-shackling Top Ten theme then, I'll now just title posts about new stuff as NEW ENTRY, and old stuff as RE-ENTRY (I haven't yet decided what to do with old stuff that's new to me). At least that way I won't have to do 10 of them a month (now I can do 15 if I want!). Anyway, there seems no more appropriate song to kick off with than this...

NEW ENTRY: THE INDELICATES - TOP OF THE POPS

The Indelicates remain my favourite band of the 21st Century. They are responsible for the most exciting single of the millennium so far (We Hate The Kids) and a series of albums that are always surprising, witty, literate and fun. They embrace a wide range of musical styles, from guitar pop to glam, embracing Brelian theatrical pomp and Jerry Lee Lewis piano. They're not afraid to admit to loving Jim Steinman. They're also indie in its most pure sense, having proudly resisted any kind of record deal since 2009, setting up their own label (Corporate Records) to promote their work and that of like-minded souls. They won't suck up to the music press (30 years ago, the NME would have been all over this band: the fact that they ignore them now is testament to what the NME has become) or radio (I'm always amazed that Lamacq doesn't support them). They are a cottage industry who rely on a loyal fanbase and word of mouth from the blogosphere to get their music heard... and I'm happy to play my (miniscule) part in helping promote their new record, Juniverbrechter. Because it's a record we need now more than any other.

I'll let Simon & Julia Indelicate explain why...

Lords and commons of England! Consider what nation it is whereof ye are!

It is one year since Brexit, half a year since Trump, stirrings abound - but the horrors persist and worsen!

England!

Cruel and Ugly! Mr Punch in the boiler room! Savile in a postcard! There's something wrong with Top Of The Pops. They cry hoorah for Daniel! Everything's so lovely by the sea! The bins have not been taken! 

We present this banishing ritual, to drive the demons from England!

Nous présentons ce hurlement en marge!
Unsere Damen, Herren und alle anderen! Wir präsentieren: JUNIVERBRECHER!


To find out more, visit The Indelicates website. Every time somebody clicks that link, an elitist scumbag loses their seat. (It might not be a parliamentary seat, it might just be a deck chair, rocking chair or chaise lounge. But every little helps.)


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