Tuesday, 31 October 2017

My Top Ten Horror Actor Songs

It's Halloween - the night we all dread because the scariest creatures on earth roam the streets spreading terror and mayhem. No, not ghosts, vampires and zombies - children! Give me a werewolf any day over a belligerent teenager in joke shop fangs with a table cover of his head and a couple of sachets of ketchup. Like most sane people, we turned off the lights and hid behind the sofa till it was safe to come out.

While there, I realised that every year at this time I usually post a horror-related Top Ten... and I'd completely forgotten to compile on this year. So here - in conjunction with my Songs About Actors series - are ten songs which feature famous scary movie stars in one way or another...

10. Bauhaus - Bela Lugosi's Dead

You've got to either start or finish with this one, haven't you? I never quite got the appeal, but it's OK once a year. Chvrches do an interesting cover though. As do Nouvelle Vague.

9. Redd Kross - Linda Blair

 A suitably freaky tribute to the girl they couldn't exorcise.

8. Lou Reed & Metallica - Brandenburg Gate

Boris Karloff, Klaus Kinski and Peter Lorre all get a namecheck in this... interesting... collaboration. Not as heavy as you might expect.

7. The Huntingtons - Let's Go To Haddonfield

Stumbled across this song about one of my favourite horror movies - John Carpenter's Halloween - and its star, the original scream queen, Jamie Lee Curtis. The Ramones have a lot to answer for.

6. Garland Jeffries - Lon Chaney

The Hunchback of Notre Dame is one of the saddest films I've ever seen.
Oh Lon Chaney,
What's to hold you back?
The Wolfman's dead
And the old black cat is gone,
Like a memory faded from your past.
You look so sad,
With a face of stone,
Just skin and bone.
You're all alone,
With a hunchback's eye you live.
5. Jack Lukeman - Ode To Ed Wood

Cult genius or worst actor / director ever? I always had a fondness for Ed Wood, largely driven by the Tim Burton / Johnny Depp film which led me to seek out some of his work. Jack Lukeman does an excellent spooky tribute.

4. ZZ Top - Vincent Price Blues

This is both hairy AND scary. Honest: give it a spin... if you dare!

3. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers - Zombie Zoo

You look like Boris Karloff - and you don't even care!

2. John Grant - Sigourney Weaver

Those scary aliens gave Sigourney no trouble at all.
And I feel just like Sigourney Weaver
When she had to kill those aliens.
And one guy tried to get them back to the Earth.
And she couldn't believe her ears.
And there's a shout out to Winona Ryder in the second verse too: the scariest thing in Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula was her English accent...
I feel just like Winona Ryder
In that movie about vampires.
And she couldn't get that accent right;
Neither could that other guy.
1. Warren Zevon - Werewolves Of London

Lon Chaney AND Lon Chaney Jr. - in the same song! And they're both walking with the queen...

Your suggestions always welcome. Just don't knock on my door with them tonight.

Monday, 30 October 2017

NEW ENTRY: God's Gracious Gift

Apparently, this is my 600th post on this blog. I don't normally take note of such things, but I stumbled across that fact while trying to decide what to write about tonight. Someone new, I think, never before featured here...

Juanita Stein - Someone Else's Dime

Juanita is usually the lead singer of Aussie indie band The Howling Bells, but her new solo album is about as far from indie - an Australia - as you can get. Instead, it's drenched in Americana, part Dusty In Memphis, part First Aid Kit (yes, I know neither of those artists are particularly American either - but the great thing is, you don't have to be from the States to define Americana).

It's quite a lovely record, anyway, and this is one of the stand-out tracks. It'll do till the new First Aid Kit record comes out, anyway... because apparently we have to wait till 2018 for that.

(Oh, and if you're wondering about the title of his post: apparently that's what Juanita means in Spanish.)

Sunday, 29 October 2017

The Top Ten Records I Bought Because I Fancied The Singer #3: The Vamp

I wanna die with you Wendy on the street tonight
In an everlasting kiss...
You know that girl your mother always warned you about? Well, my mother never warned me about her. I think the reason is that my mum recognised I was hopeless around girls, so why bother wasting her breath? The bad girls weren't going to be interested in me. Neither were the nice girls.Not even the hopeless girls...

The thing is, I wasn't really interested in the bad girls either. Certainly not at school. I found them rather obvious and annoying. So why I ended up fancying Wendy James, I really couldn't tell you. Yet whenever she appeared on Top of the Pops... well, invariably I ended up buying the single.

Just for the music, you understand. Transvision Vamp had some rattling good tunes and were a very underrated band and... and...

OK, mostly it was Wendy.

Which is unusual, because she wasn't my type at all.

I even bought her Elvis Costello-written solo album a couple of years later and thought it an excellent, mature piece of art. No, really I did.

3. Transvision Vamp - Landslide Of Love

My favourite Transvision Vamp single was this one. The guitars in the chorus always reminded me of the theme tune to Red Dwarf.

I had no idea until writing this feature that Wendy James was still releasing records, or that her latest, released just last year featured 50 year old Wendy... erm... sans clothes on the front cover. Disgraceful behaviour from someone of her age of course and I will not be endorsing that sort of filth here. Perhaps when I was a teenager, but I long since gave up any interest in the trappings of smut, thank you very much...

Etc. Etc. Etc.

Saturday Snapshots #6: The Answers

What took you so long? Was there a queue at the post office?

10. He waits for a heartbreaker at the disco, talking to Robin a lot.

Tom Waits

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

Disco = Club

Talking to Robin a lot...?

Tom Tom Club - Wordy Rappinghood

Points for George.

9. The indigenous people of northern Europe like long jazz, Dallas and horror films.

The indigenous people of northern Europe = Sami

Long jazz = (Miles) Davis

Dallas = J.R.

Which Sammy Davis Jr. hit shares its name with a horror film?

Alyson trawled her extensive collection of video nasties to solve the riddle..

Sammy Davis Jr. - The Candyman

8. Flying over the channel to Switzerland, Israel and California.

CC finally figured this one out, with extra clues.

If you were flying over the channel, you would be in the aeroplane over the sea.

Switzerland was neutral in WWII.

Israel was the Land of Milk (and honey)

Welcome to the Hotel California...

Neutral Milk Hotel - In The Aeroplane Over The Sea

7. Don't take Huey Lewis to town, not like Siouxsie did.

Ruby (Don't Take Your Love To Town) plus (Huey Lewis & The) News = Rubinoos

Lynchie got the artist. Then C discovered, the Rubinoos had a song (a cover of a 50s hit by The Cadillacs) which shares its name with a Siouxsie & The Banshees track...

The Rubinoos - Peek-A-Boo

6. Keeping you safely in one lane, like the preachers with an empty tank.

The Swede gets extra points for this one. That said, whenever you make it look really easy, I'm just tempted to try harder.

Rumble Strips are those things that make a loud noise on your tyres when you drift out of your lane on a big road.

The Manic Street Preachers sang about Motorcycle Emptiness

The Rumble Strips - Motorcycle

(Great trumpet in that.)

5. Dylan Thomas loses his milk. Don't stop: duplicity ahead!

Gave Charity Chic no problems at all...

Dylan Thomas wrote Under Milk Wood - take away the milk...

Don't stop? Carry on...

Duplicity ahead?

Carrie Underwood - Before He Cheats

4. Satan wants a satellite - can Jack's southern brother help?

Jack Daniels is the king of Southern drinks... and until I stopped drinking 17 years ago, it was my tipple of choice.

If Satan went down (south) he might be looking for a Georgia Satellite.

The Charlie Daniels Band - The Devil Went Down To Georgia

Well done, Chris. CC is still kicking himself.

3. Girls from paradise go goth.

Paradise is also known as Shangri-La.

Goths wore black.

A combined effort from Lynchie, C & Chris.

The Shangri-Las - Dressed In Black

2. Venerable Batman can't iron, just like a Red (not Green) Arrow.

The title is pretty self-explanatory... the artist clue required knowledge (or a good google) of obscure comic book trivia... either that, or you watch the Green Arrow TV show (which I don't). Anyway, there's a comic book character called Red Arrow whose real name is...

Roy Harper - When An Old Cricketer Leaves The Crease  

I figured The Swede would get that one. One of John Peel's favourites too... just a gorgeous, gorgeous song.

1. A nice Yorkshire greeting shouted across the Atlantic.

Thankfully, being from Yorkshire, I'm allowed to make this gag,

Eeh - 'ello!

Well done, CC.

ELO - Calling America

Ten more next week.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Saturday Snapshots #6

Watch the birdie!

Ten pics, ten clues to ten great tunes. Can you identify them?

10. He waits for a heartbreaker at the disco, talking to Robin a lot.

9. The indigenous people of northern Europe like long jazz, Dallas and horror films.

8. Flying over the channel to Switzerland, Israel and California.

7. Don't take Huey Lewis to town, not like Siouxsie did.

6. Keeping you safely in one lane, like the preachers with an empty tank.

(I'll be pretty damned impressed if anyone gets that.)

5. Dylan Thomas loses his milk. Don't stop: duplicity ahead!

4. Satan wants a satellite - can Jack's southern brother help?

3. Girls from paradise go goth.

2. Venerable Batman can't iron, just like a Red (not Green) Arrow.

1. A nice Yorkshire greeting shouted across the Atlantic.

Answers as soon as you've earned them.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

My Top Ten Hearing Aid Songs

Well, that was an obvious choice.

The hearing aid's been in a week, and the difference has been subtle, but noticeable.

Ten quick songs then , dedicated to hearing aid wearers everywhere...

10. The Move - I Can Hear The Grass Grow

My hearing aid isn't that powerful. Then again, I reckon The Move might have been augmenting more than just their ears...
My head's attracted to
A magnetic wave of sound
With the streams of coloured circles
Makin' their way around.
You may prefer the version by The Fall, of course. If you can make head or tail of it. I certainly can't. Everyone needs a hearing aid to understand Mark E. Smith's vocals.

9. The Accidental - I Can Hear Your Voice

What do you get if you mix Tunng, The Bicycle Thieves and The Memory Band?

A misspelt crime I can't remember. Or The Accidental, a folky supergroup made up of members of all the above.

8. Captain Sensible - Can You Hear Me?

Sorry, Captain, I'll be Damned if I can.

7. Spacemen 3 - Lord, Can You Hear Me?

J. Spaceman's original version. He also re-recorded it as Spiritualized. And even Low had a go at it.

They're all quite lovely.

6. They Might Be Giants - I Can Hear You
You won't hear a buzz
But I'm buzzing you in
I'm buzzing you in
Well, that's helpful, isn't it?

5. Jerry Lee Lewis - I Can Still Hear The Music In The Rest Room

Classic bit of Jerry Lee. Do your ears a favour...

4. Chris Rea - I Can Hear Your Heartbeat

The one that's guaranteed to get the musos going, "You what!?"

3. Richard Hawley - Can You Hear The Rain, Love?

Yes, I can now, love.

2. David Bowie - Can You Hear Me?

From probably my favourite Bowie album: Young Americans.

Here he is singing it as a duet with Cher. Yes, really.

1. The Beach Boys - I Can Hear Music 

It couldn't have been anything else at Number One, could it? 

A Jeff Barry song, originally recorded by Phil Spector with The Ronettes, this was Carl Wilson's first taste of being the Beach Boys' boss while Brian was off being bored... or "listening to the grass grow". If anyone ever tells you Brian was the only genius in the Beach Boys, play them this...

What's your favourite hearing aid song?


Wednesday, 25 October 2017

The Neverending Top Ten #6: Pride

Things have been a bit heavy - some might even say depressing - around here for the past week. You may think I'm about to change the strapline of the blog to "Watch a grown man go through a complete nervous breakdown online while blogging about pop songs". But I'm not, honestly. And to prove it: a short, happy post.

When my son spoke his first words, it was the proudest moment of my life. Not because he said "Mummy" or "Daddy" or even "Poo Poo"... but because his first words were "Spider-Man".

This is a music blog, so I won't bore you with a long post about why the character of Spider-Man means so much to me, other than that Peter Parker has been my hero since I was 4 years old.

However, if we're talking fatherly pride, that first speech balloon has now been joined by another equally awesome memory. The sight of my four year old son eating his Cheerios at the breakfast table while singing...

"Panic on the streets of London,
Panic on the streets of London,
Panic on the streets of London..."

(Don't worry, we'll get to Dublin, Dundee and Humberside in due time.)

6. The Smiths - Panic

Pulp yesterday, The Smiths today... this has almost become a respectable music blog again. Better dig out some Barry Manilow for tomorrow...

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

My Top ∞ Radio Songs #21: Radio One (Part 1)

I've been listening to a few of the Radio One 50th anniversary shows on the Radio 1 Vintage pop up station. Till now, I've mostly talked about either Radio 2 or local radio in this feature, but like most young people, I did have my Radio 1 years... in fact, I had them twice.

The first time was in the mid-80s, and it started with Janice Long's Friday evening Select-A-Disc show, which was basically just a request show... but it sounded fascinating to me, because it was full of teenagers ringing up to request The Eurythmics - There Must Be An Angel (this song, more than any other, says Select-A-Disc to me) and Long chatting to them about who they fancied at school, whether they were going out on a date that weekend, snogging, discos... this arcane world I'd suddenly realised was out there and I might one day be a part of (it never happened). Perhaps Janice Long held the answers.

Soon after, I became a Radio One junkie, listening all through the day (except for the Breakfast show - I have never been a regular listener to the Radio One breakfast show: it was either Wogan or... no one, I guess. I certainly didn't listen to Derek Jameson when he took over while old Tel was on the telly). It started with Simon Bates. Our Tune. Corny, but I was at the right age for corny. Then Gary Davies. There are those who will tell you Gary Davies was a great DJ. He wasn't. He was cheese on a stick. Ooh, Gary Davies. Terrible, but I listened. And then... Steve Wright.

I've already talked about Steve Wright, but there's one story I haven't yet told. It happened around the time I was doing hospital radio, and it is my great radio shame. Let's pull the plaster off quickly then, shall we?

I recorded an audition demo tape to try and get a job on Steve Wright's posse. I did it at the hospital radio station, early one weekend when nobody else was around. It wasn't long, it wasn't even a proper demo. It was just me, with a bit of music, telling Steve Wright how he needed a Yorkshire teenager on his posse: to bring a bit of wit or diversity or youth or something to his programme... god knows what I thought I had to offer. I recorded it onto a C30, put it in a padded envelope, and posted it to the BBC. I still remember the moment I posted it. The exact postbox I popped it into. Time seemed to stand still in those seconds... I was so certain this was the moment that would define my life. Soon there would be a phone call and I'd be invited down to London and the rest would be history.

I can't imagine what I'd have done if Steve Wright had called. I couldn't have moved to London. I hated cities. I was a country boy. That place would have killed me... if I hadn't bottled it first. But 17 is a very confusing time. Jarvis sums it up perfectly in today's radio song...
Oh I was seventeen,
When I heard the countdown start, it started slowly,
And I thought it was my heart but then I realised,
That this time it was for real there was no place to hide,
I had to go out and feel,
But there was time to kill,
And so I, I walked my way around town,
I tried to love the world,
Oh but the world just got me down...

My God, you've got to understand,
That I was seventeen!
I didn't, I didn't know a thing at all.
I've got no reason,
No reason at all,
Oh no.
I wasted all my time on all those stupid things that only get me down
Get down, oh
And the sky, is crying out tonight,
For me to leave this town.
So I'll leave this town.

The sky, is crying out tonight,
For me to leave this town,
Yeah, I'm gonna leave this town

21. Pulp - Countdown

Soon after, I realised it was never going to happen. I hope I gave Steve Wright and his London media tossposse mates a good laugh at the stupid northern child who sent that tape. I can still hear them laughing at it now. There's a dark part of me thinks Wrighty kept that tape, that he gets it out and plays it at his big showbiz media idiot parties and they all guffaw themselves stupid.

Who could blame them if they did?

More on Radio One next time...

Monday, 23 October 2017

New Entry: This Is What Happens When You Find A Stranger In The Alps

My favourite movie is The Big Lebowski. It contains the following hilarious scene (one of many: the whole film is a blast from start to finish) in which The Dude (Jeff Bridges) and Walter (John Goodman) question a teenager who they believe has broken into The Dude's car and stolen a bag of money. Their evidence for this is largely based on the flashy car parked outside said teenager's house...

(There is bad language in this clip: BUT THAT'S THE POINT!)

When shown on TV, this sequence has been edited to cut the bad language down, substituting some ridiculous nonsense for the original swearwords...

I'm guessing Phoebe Bridgers must be a Lebowski fan also, since she's named her excellent debut album after the nonsense above. It's called A Stranger In The Alps.

Bridgers has a gorgeous voice that reminds me of Sinead O'Connor crossed with Aimee Mann. And like both those artists, she's not afraid to paint her songs with gallons of neurosis as in the track below, one of many listen again & again moments from A Stranger In The Alps. Her songwriting is reminiscent of both E and John Grant, and apparently she's mates with Ryan Adams also... well, you get the picture. Enjoy the cynical, world-weary loveliness...

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 aggravating the other half*), 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.

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