Sunday, 22 October 2017

My Top 90 Mid-Life Crisis Songs #7: Pardon?

I'm not a big one for selfies, 
but this seemed like an occasion that needed to be marked.

There are certain points in your life that mark a transition. A moment which changes you as a person forever, which draws a line on your life's calendar that can be marked pre- and post-, B-something and A-something. Leaving school. Starting your first job. Moving out of your parents' house. Becoming a parent. As Brad Paisley sings in his song Last Time For Everything (already featured on this blog, otherwise I'd have posted it as tonight's main tune), these are the moments which define our transition into older.

On Friday, I passed one of those markers, one which many people my age won't pass for another 20 or 30 years... if they ever do. I became bionic.

My hearing's not been great for years. In crowded rooms, or at a distance, I'll generally miss a third of what you say. I've been bluffing about this for a long time now. Nodding or smiling at things I hope a nod or a smile's the right response to. Saying, "Sorry?" more than most. Not being able to answer the question about "What song is this?" in a busy restaurant: not because I don't know the answer, but because I didn't even know there was a song playing.

I've made a couple of weak attempts to get doctors to take my hearing seriously in recent years, but the furthest I'd got until a few weeks ago was a syringing and some nasal spray. Finally though, I got a GP to submit me to the Ear, Nose & Throat specialist for proper testing. He took one look at the results and recommended me for two state of the art hearing aids. He did wonder if I'd actually get them though: as with most things in the ever-squeezed NHS, I got the feeling they're being rationed these days. I think my job stood in my favour. The audiologist who tested me, having seen the results before the doctor, asked me one question: "you're a teacher, right?", ticking a box on her form when I answered in the affirmative. Perhaps if I'd just been working an office, they'd have sent me home with a flea in my ear instead of a hearing aid. Or at least off down to Boots where the same aids will cost you a grand a pop.

And so here I am, with an aid in each ear, actually able to hear what you're muttering about me for a change. Clear as a bell. The tests showed I have the fairly common high frequency hearing loss which means I can hear a conversation well in a quiet room, but as soon as there's background noise, higher frequencies (most voices) become harder to pick out. The aids are programmed to adjust to this, boosting higher frequencies while keeping the rumble to a minimum. So far, I can definitely notice a difference.

Higher frequency hearing loss has a number of causes, including ageing, genetics (both my parents and my older brother have hearing aids, although my dad's had one of his since a very young age after mumps affected one of his ear canals as a child) and exposure to loud noises... so, yeah, if I wanted to be really rock 'n' roll, I could tell you it was down to all those loud indie gigs I attended in my 20s and early 30s. To be fair, they probably didn't help (particularly the Silver Sun one), but I reckon the first two explanations are probably more likely.

The first thing Louise said when I came home with the aids in was, "with your hair over your ears, nobody will even notice you're wearing them". And while I understand the stigma that's attached to any kind of disability, I've never really been one who understood vanity. I couldn't give a monkey's if anyone judged me because I'm wearing hearing aids now. My initial reaction was entirely positive: this will help me at work (no more asking students to repeat themselves), at home (no more pissing Louise off *), in every aspect of my life.

It was only later, in the wee small hours of the morning, when it finally hit me about the line being drawn on my calendar. Last week I was a man without hearing aids. (OK, I've needed them for years, but that's not the point.) Now I am a man with hearing aids. I cannot go back to that person I was before. That's the worst realisation about getting old, the thing that makes it so hard. That's what causes the mid-life crisis. You can't ever go back once the line has been drawn...

#7. The Dead Weather - I Can't Hear You

A bit of Jack White and co, played very loud through the headphones, seems about right now. Maybe I'll do a whole hearing Top Ten a bit later in the week...

(*If only.)

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Saturday Snapshots #5: The Answers

As usual, a sterling effort by everyone...

I would leave it a bit longer to reveal the title of number #6, but I was up at 5 this morning and need my beauty sleep...

10. When your ears get blocked in Detroit or Philly, don't say we didn't warn you!

Detroit & Philly = Soul

Blocked Ears = Wax

Don't say we didn't warn you = Much Against Everyone's Advice

Martin's first point of the evening.

Soulwax - Much Against Everyone's Advice

9. I know you'll solve this puzzle with the fourth Thunderbird.

Thunderbirds were F-A-B.

The fourth one would be FAB Four.

Lynchie overthought this one a bit: I didn't even know Thunderbird 4 was yellow. Martin came to his rescue...

I know you'll solve this puzzle = We Can Work It Out

The Beatles - We Can Work It Out

8. First in court today: a very small motorbike.

George was first out of bed this morning, and had no trouble with this.

10cc - Good Morning Judge

Great video.

7. Directory enquiries? Do you know the number for table tennis?

The clue was pretty obvious if you knew the track. Which not many people do.

Another point for Martin.

Number is, of course, another word for song. As in "Here's a little number I call..."

Operator Please - A Song About Ping Pong

Don't know know beef jerky has an aftertaste?

6. Adrian thaws in a hurry: don't make cake.

Hurry: don't make cake = Run DMC.

Well done, Chris.

Adrian thaws... or should that be Adrian Thaws?

Who is Adrian Thaws?

Run DMC - It's Tricky

5. Walt avoids sinking through humility.

Walt = Disney, otherwise known after his most famous creation... The Mouse.

Humility = Modest

Avoid sinking? Float on...

Modest Mouse - Float On

Well done again, Martin.

4. Man, waiting three days for a bit of affection really sucks.

Man = Mann... Aimee Mann

If you wait 3 days (from today), you'll be waiting 'Til Tuesday (Aimee's original band).

Affection that really sucks... Love In A Vacuum.

Extra points to Chris for getting 'Til Tuesday. That was a tough one. And to George for getting the song.

'Til Tuesday - Love In A Vacuum

3. Tarzan's fictional favourite gets aid from a drink you don't want.

Don't drink the Kool Aid.

Tarzan was Lord of the Jungle.

Fictional? From the soundtrack of Pulp Fiction.

Kool & The Gang - Jungle Boogie

Martin's making this look too easy.

2. Little ones shipwrecked while thumbing a ride to the frontline.

Who was shipwrecked? Robinson Crusoe.

Thumbing a ride? Tom Thumb.

Frontline + little ones = War Baby.

Only the very young and the very beautiful (George and CC) can be so aloof...

Tom Robinson - War Baby

Great sax on that.

1. Quarreling in an old airport is like watching polygons.

 An old airport = Idlewild (the former name of JFK International Airport in New York).

Quarreling is like watching polygons? I still have no idea what this song about... but I always loved it.

Well done Lynchie & George. (George, you were on fire today. As was Martin.)

If you liked this and you can't wait till next Saturday, go do Martin's crossword if you haven't already...

Saturday Snapshots #5

Saturday... is Snapshots day!

Ten pics, ten cryptic clues... can you name the artist and the song?

10. When your ears get blocked in Detroit or Philly, don't say we didn't warn you!

9. I know you'll solve this puzzle with the fourth Thunderbird.

8. First in court today: a very small motorbike.

7. Directory enquiries? Do you know the number for table tennis?

6. Adrian thaws in a hurry: don't make cake.

5. Walt avoids sinking through humility.

4. Man, waiting three days for a bit of affection really sucks.

3. Tarzan's fictional favourite gets aid from a drink you don't want.

2. Little ones shipwrecked while thumbing a ride to the frontline.

1. Quarreling in an old airport is like watching polygons.

Easy! I expect this done by teatime.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

My Top Ten 'Life Sucks!' Songs (Volume 1, surely...)

Shut up, Axl. You have no idea what you're talking about.

Life... don't talk to me about life...

When you've had a week like I've had, sometimes you just want to wallow...

10. Hall & Oates - Who Said The World Was Fair? 

Not just Hall & Oates, but H&O go disco. If I'm gonna wallow, I'm really gonna wallow...
I think it must be a test to weed the best from the rest
But whatever they are doing is driving us
Out of our minds
Driving us out of our minds
9. The Pernice Brothers - My So-Called Celibate Life
In each life a quiet hell. Half a million scripts you can never sell.
Wow. That one kicked me in the gut. Thanks, Joe!

8. Teenage Fanclub - My Uptight Life
The waking world is full of cynics' sighs
Cynicism's a box I don't want to be in
I'll stay in bed until I stabilize 
Staying in bed. The dream...

7. Queen - It's A Hard Life

I try and mend the broken pieces
Oh, I try to fight back the tears
Oh, they say it's just a state of mind
But it happens to everyone

And nobody appreciates you, do they, Freddie?

6. Manic Street Preachers - Life Becoming a Landslide
I don't wanna be a man
I know. It's hard work, isn't it, James?

5. Morrissey - Life Is A Pigsty

 Well, of course it is, Moz. That goes without saying.
Can you please stop time?
Can you stop the pain?
I feel too cold
And now I feel too warm again
Can you stop this pain?
4. Warren Zevon - My Shit's Fucked Up

Because sometimes all you can do is say bad words to make you feel better...
That amazing grace
Sort of passed you by
You wake up every day
And you start to cry
Yeah, you want to die
But you just can't quit
Let me break it on down:
It's the fucked up shit
3. Laura Cantrell - Pile of Woe

Take it away, Laura... PLEASE take it away.
Come on baby stop your cryin'
You know you shouldn't bother so
Didn't your momma ever tell you
This world's a pile of woe

What's been born is busy dyin'
Our fortunes with the four winds blow
Don't dread the night, don't fear the morrow
Don't let this bed of sorrow grow
2. Meat Loaf - Life Is A Lemon (And I Want My Money Back)

Jim Steinman knows what he's talking about...
It's always something
There's always something going wrong
That's the only guarantee
That's what this is all about

It's a never ending attack
Everything's a lie and that's a fact
Life is a lemon
And I want my money back
1. Black Box Recorder - Child Psychology

You can always rely on Luke Haines to put things in perspective...
Life is unfair:
Kill yourself, or get over it.

Still, tomorrow's another day, eh?

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

My Top 90 Mid-Life Crisis Songs #6: Remember when 37 was middle-aged?

At the age of 37
She realised she'd never ride
Through Paris in a sports car
With the warm wind in her hair
The chorus of Dr. Hook's The Ballad of Lucy Jordon (sic) is surely one of the saddest collection of words ever set to music. The song was written by poet and country songwriter Shel Silverstein, telling of a tired and jaded housewife who puts her husband and kids ahead of her own freedom and happiness... to the point that she's either driven insane... or to suicide, depending on your reading of the song's final lines.

One person who thought Lucy ended up in the loony bin was Marianne Faithful, who covered the song in the late 70s. You may prefer her version, but for me it's too much a product of its time and the tinny synths spoil Faithful's otherwise powerful vocal performance. (That said, I prefer the heartbreak in Dennis Locorriere's own vocal... that guy always sounded like he was on the verge of a breakdown, even when he was trying to get Sylvia's mother to persuade her daughter to take his call.)

6. Dr. Hook - The Ballad of Lucy Jordon

This is a song about realising that your best years are behind you, and in the 70s, that came at age 37, apparently.

What's the new 37 then...?

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

The Top Ten Songs I Hated When I Was A Kid #6: My Name Is Not Roland

Since Martin brought this one up in the comments a couple of days back, it seemed a good enough excuse to bring back this particular series which I've let slide a bit in recent months.

6. Roland Rat - Rat Rapping

I had no problem with Roland Rat. I was 11 when he made his TV debut and although I didn't really have time for Breakfast Television (still a relatively new innovation in those days), I found myself drawn to his humorous shtick, laughing along with Kevin the Gerbil, Errol the Hamster and Glenis the Guinea Pig. I was just the right age. So when Roland released his first single, I was up for singing along...



My name is Rol. In case you think that's a pseudonym I adopt for this blog, it's not. Although it's my middle name, Rol is the name I've always been called... by family, friends and even teachers. Except when I went up to High School and one particular teacher took umbrage at me telling her my name was Rol, saying she wouldn't be addressing students by their nicknames, and insisting I use the longer version.

The longer version being...

Well, it's not Roland.

However, as Roland Rat made his way into the pop charts with his familiar Fonzie-like cry of "Eyyyyyy", I soon found myself the butt of lots of rat jokes at school. My first year at high school, and suddenly I was "Roland - like the Rat: Eyyyyyyyy!"

But worse was yet to come: much, much worse, as the number one TV show for our genration, Grange Hill followed soon after by introducing its very own Roland... or should that be Ro-Land... in the shape of tubby miseryguts Ro-Land Browning.

What a gift to the playground wits... and what a dilemma! What would they shout as I walked by now? They were torn between a cheeky "Eyyyyyy!" and the far more unpleasant, "I only want to help you, Ro-Land" (the catchphrase of Roland's only real friend on the show, the wimpy and annoying Janet St. Clair). Ultimately, Roland Browning won out, and the cuter, cooler Roland Rat impersonations were dropped in favour of the much more cutting Roland Browning jibes. Things got so bad for the fictional Roland Browning that he chucked himself under a car. I missed that episode because I had a piano exam. This was in the days before even video recorders. How did we live!?! I had to tune in the following week and work out what had happened while Roland lay recovering in hospital, wimpy Janet at his side.

1983 was not a good time to be called Rol.

Even if Rol isn't even short for Roland...

(It's short for Rolston, but that really isn't important to this story.)

Monday, 16 October 2017

My Top Ten Ingrid Bergman Songs

Yes, it's the series nobody really likes, but I do it anyway. Indulge me!

Having done Bogie, it seems only fair I give some thought to his Casablanca co-star. Was that cannon fire, or is it my heart pounding?

10. Duran Duran - Notorious

When I started in radio, this record had been out a couple of years and so the jocks (who still had free choice back then... for a short time) would dig it out and give it a spin quite often. Mostly so they could make the same gag: Mo-mo-monotonous...

Still, good memories.

Notorious is a great Hitchcock film, with Ingrid and Cary Grant.

9. Serge Lama & Carla Bruni - Casablanca

Most of it's in French, so I don't understand a word of it... except when they sing about Bogart et Ingrid Bergman...

8. Bee Gees - For Whom The Bell Tolls

Hard to imagine that Robin, Maurice and Barry were big Hemingway fans, but they did steal the title of one of his most famous novels... made into a 1943 movie starring Ingrid & Gary Cooper.

7. The Alan Parsons Project - Call Up

If Alan had a time machine, he'd use it to rescue a bunch of dead stars. Ingrid would be among them, in excellent company.

6. Siouxsie & The Banshees - Spellbound

More Hitchcock, this time with Gregory Peck. Siouxsie is a huge Hitchcock fan.

5. Sleeper - Lie Detector
She's a movie star arrangement
Got a touch of Bergman to her face
She wears suits and buys him flowers
Smokes his cigarettes and bakes him cakes
He says uh oh I love you
But I'm not sure I trust you
Weird thing is, I reckon Louise Wener had a touch of Bergman to her face too. 

4. Richard Thompson - Jerusalem On The Jukebox
In the bathroom mirror they try that Joan of Arc look again
Two parts Ingrid Bergman to one part Shirley MacLaine...
3. The Beautiful South - Good As Gold (Stupid As Mud)
I want my sun-drenched, windswept Ingrid Bergman kiss...
Don't we all?

2. Pulp - The Day After The Revolution

The closing track on the greatest album of the 90s, and the one that killed Britpop. I loved Britpop, but it needed killing.

Fair enough, the Bergman that Jarvis claims is over may well be Ingmar (no relation to Ingrid), but it's my blog and so I'll pretend he was singing about Ingrid just so I get to play this amazing track.

1. Billy Bragg - Ingrid Bergman

I know I featured this a few weeks back in My Top Ten Innuendo Songs, but it's worth giving it another spin without the phnarrs... because it's beautiful. Woody Guthrie lives, through the Bard of Barking.

Play it once, Sam. For old times' sake.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

The Neverending Top Ten #5: Ratrap (sic)

Sam has taken to writing words on the bathroom wall with his stick-on road bath toys. It started with his own name, then worked through the names of his friends at nursery, then on to the names of his favourite characters from Disney's Cars, Paw Patrol and Transformers: Rescue Bots. This has been going on for a while now and while we do have to help him with the spelling, it's still pretty impressive for a 3/4 year old.

Imagine my joy when one night I came home from working late to find he'd chosen to write a song title on the bathroom wall, one of the ones we'd been listening to in the car earlier that weekend...

(Yes, fellow pedants, I know there's a 't' missing, but I blame his mother for that.)

5. The Boomtown Rats - Rat Trap

Many people will tell you that this is Bob Geldof's finest moment, and they'd probably be right. Many of those same people might even tell you that they're not Bruce Springsteen fans... which is ironic, since Rat Trap is possibly the greatest Springsteen tribute song ever written. I mean, come on: this is Born To Run, the Dublin version. Right down to the sax intro that wants to be Clarence so very, very badly. Watch the video though and tell me if, for even one second, you really believe Bob Geldof knows how to play the saxophone...
Billy don't like it living here in this town
He says: traps have been sprung long before he was born
He says: hope bites the dust behind all the closed doors
And pus and grime ooze from its scab-crusted sores

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Saturday Snapshots #4: The Answers

Well, that didn't take you long, did it? Well done to all who took part - a true group effort this week. Although poor old Brian didn't even get a look in. Maybe I'll start later in the day next Saturday. I like to think I'll make it harder next week, but every time I think that you all raise your games anyway.

Here's the answers, and a brief explanation of the answers... plus ten top tunes. Check them out if you're not already familiar with them. Guaranteed: no lemons.

10. This Russian waterway gets metafictional.

I didn't actually know that the Okkervil River is in St. Petersburg until I researched this. Apparently the band take their name from a short story by Russian author Tatyana Tolstaya set on that particular waterway. Lynchie's suggestion of The Okkervil River Song was pretty metafictional, but Charity Chic named the actual tune...

Okkervil River - Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Maybe

Love that song.

9. Trump's toothpaste visits a flying citadel.

CC got this one, and didn't even know the song. Here you go, CC: hope you like it as much as I do...

Don McLean - Castles In The Air

8. An American Oasis song inspires the hangman.

Martin recognised Liam Lynch, but couldn't work out the song. Like Liam Lynch had any other hits? To be fair, Liam did have some other pretty good songs. And it's not as though I'm sticking only to chart hits on this quiz. But still... d'oh, indeed, Martin. Glad the penny finally dropped.

Liam Lynch - The United States of Whatever

Still makes me laugh, even after all this time.

7. Brian Jardine, backwards on the beach: what a charmer! 

Well done to Lynchie for puzzling this one out.

The Beach Boys backwards... Brian (Wilson) and (Al) Jardine. Charming snakes...

Al Wilson - The Snake

6. An Eagle and some sexy Stewarts. Please yourself!

Top work from Alyson.

Eddie The Eagle + (Hot) Sexy (Rod) Stewarts. Please yourself?

Eddie & The Hot Rods - Do Anything You Wanna Do

5. Are these guys getting spiritual... or are they just full of hot air? God above knows.

The 5th Dimension is the spiritual one, apparently. Hot air balloon, obviously. Written by Jimmy Webb, who the Boo Radleys and I both agree is God. Above? Up...

The 5th Dimension - Up, Up & Away

Another winner for Alyson.

4. Keeping you warm by the bay, with a nice drink and a message of self-improvement.

Finding a picture of Nina Persson with dark hair was essential here.

Cardigans keep you warm, especially at Cardigan Bay.

Well done to Chris for seeing through my ruse.

The Cardigans - I Need Some Fine Wine And You, You Need To Be Nicer

One of the best song titles ever written.

3. Never play cards with Charles Dickens in an outdoor swimming pool.

Boz was an early pseudonym of Dickens.

The rest is pretty straightforward.

Well done, C.

Boz Scaggs - Lido Shuffle

2. It was North vs. South when these two fell into a depression over Special Dick.

(The international version of that clue may be harder: substitute Hawkeye for Special Dick.) 

NvS = The Civil War. A depression in the earth is a hollow. Dick Barton was a Special Agent. Hawkeye in the Avengers (not M*A*S*H*) is Clint Barton.

I should have known Charity Chic would get this one straight away...

The Civil Wars - Barton Hollow

1. She's like a wonder of time, poised on the cusp of Just Janis.

Stevie... like a Wonder? In the Nicks of time? On the cusp = edge of Just Seventeen (teen girl's pop mag from back in the day). Janis... not Joplin, but Ian, who sang At Seventeen.

Well done, C.

By the way, the video for this is even madder than Stevie Nicks herself...

Right, enough of the quizzes. Maybe tomorrow I'll write an actual post...

(Don't worry, the snapshots will be back next Saturday.)

Saturday Snapshots #4

It's back to back quizzes round here at the moment, sorry for that. Or perhaps you prefer it. Hellabusy at work at the moment, too exhausted when I get home to thread complete sentences together. Apologies also if I've not called round your place as frequently as usual. Worst time of year for having no time at all.

Here's another ten band photos and cryptic clues... can you name artist and song title?

10. This Russian waterway gets metafictional.

9. Trump's toothpaste visits a flying citadel.

8. An American Oasis song inspires the hangman.

7. Brian Jardine, backwards on the beach: what a charmer! 

6. An Eagle and some sexy Stewarts. Please yourself!

5. Are these guys getting spiritual... or are they just full of hot air? God above knows.

4. Keeping you warm by the bay, with a nice drink and a message of self-improvement.

3. Never play cards with Charles Dickens in an outdoor swimming pool.

2. It was North vs. South when these two fell into a depression over Special Dick.

(The international version of that clue may be harder: substitute Hawkeye for Special Dick.) 

1. She's like a wonder of time, poised on the cusp of Just Janis.

Let's see if anyone can beat Brian's missus to the answers this week...

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