Saturday, 18 November 2017

Saturday Snapshots #9

Say cheese... or cheesy!

Ten clues to ten great songs by ten great artists. Who can guess them first?

10. Len met Adam x 2. Said hi to drugs from a witch doctor.

9. Restaurant for birds: glue on the menu.

8. Hayes goes feminine on the road to the Cathedral: won't stop listening to Bruce's longest player.

7. The Amarillo Hulk avoids the Flaming Lips' postman.

6. Spock's killer loses her pliers while sympathising with Prince.

5. Find your fortune in Motown and you'll always stay warm.

4. The 18th provost makes you a suit despite being hunted by Harrison.

3. The sound made by a feuerwehrauto, after almost a century of hot air.

2. Go to the chemist for gender realignment.

1. Scared by basic Maths? Be polite to Quincy.

The only question remaining...

How long will it take Martin to get them all?

Thursday, 16 November 2017

NEW ENTRY: Hoge's Hero

Number #6 on My Top Ten Albums of 2015 was Will Hoge's last record, Small Town Dreams. At the time I loved the mix of sophisticated Americana with 80s Ameri-rock flashback: hints of Bruce, Mellencamp, Petty and more. Since then, I've been looking forward to whatever Hoge did next... and here it is.

Anchors is a more mature, contemporary record - straight down the middle Americana which owes a lot to Jason Isbell's current style. But just as before, Hoge's songwriting stands out. There's a maturity of detail to the lyrics that easily makes him worthy of mention in the same paragraph as Isbell...and to be honest, this stripped down, bombast-free set will probably appeal more to the musos among you than his last record.

Stand-out track at the moment is this one, the story of a marriage gone wrong, staying together for the kids... the sort of everyday mundanity it's hard to romanticise, yet Hoge makes it quietly heartbreaking.
You go to bed early and darlin' I'll stay up late
Come to the morning the kids are already awake
Get 'em dressed, get 'em breakfast, out the door and on the bus
Hope they don't see these walls building up between us

I drive to work in this rusted out pickup truck
Coffee steams in the holder
I'm torn between staying and just giving up
Sometimes I sit in this parking lot and I just cry
And wonder how the hell this became our life

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

My Top Ten Kitten Songs

This is Millie, the new addition to our family. Too soon? I did think so... but I've been proved wrong. A welcome blast of sunshine and fun in these darkest of times...

The big problem with songs about kittens is that they're rarely actually about kittens. Kitten, is seems, is a popular metaphorical term of endearment, and just about the only song on this list which appears to be about an actual kitten is about a dead one. So I'm not dedicating any of these to Millie. Ten great songs, nevertheless...

10. Bellowhead - Moon Kittens

Bellowhead go John Williams. Better than that might sound.

9. Whitesnake - Kitten's Got Claws

The thing about Whitesnake was, around about the time this came out, they were showing their kitten side more than their claws. Power ballads had taken them into the charts and their metal beginnings were all but forgotten. This was them showing they still had their claws. You won't like it, it ain't cool, but it did the job for teenage rock fans back in the mid 80s.

Can you believe this is the first time Whitesnake have featured on this blog? I can't.

8. The Kelley Deal 6000 - When He Calls Me Kitten

What Kelley did when she got out of rehab.

7. Lily Rae & The Saturday Girls - Little Kittens

Dark and creepy - Nick Cave would be proud. From Lily's debut record, available on The Indelicates' Corporate Records label. Since then she's gone on to form the band Fightmilk: also worthy of your attention.

Don't forget that little kittens have the sharpest claws!

6. Hefner - Hello Kitten

Another song about...
I'm gonna make myself go blind tonight
...well, not kittens.

5. British Sea Power - Electrical Kittens

I've featured this here before, but no reason not to do so again. My favourite song from the latest BSP album.

4. REM - Star Me, Kitten

I guess that should be **** Me, Kitten... or @%$# Me, Kitten. It's one of those songs that sounds beautiful, but if you study the lyrics you'll choke on the metaphors. Of course, you could also scare yourself half to death with the REM & William S. Burroughs version...

3. Riff Raff - Kitten

Billy Bragg and Wiggy, back when they were still in short pants.

2. Angelica - Why Did You Let My Kitten Die?

Forgotten noughties indie from half of The Lovely Eggs. Indie-girly-pop loveliness with a sting in the tail.

1. Little Willie John - Leave My Kitten Alone

"Laying in the back seat, listening to Little Willie John..."

Yes, it was Elvis Costello who introduced this song to me... but it was Robbie Robertson who introduced me to Little Willie. And the original has added meows!

Any cuddly kitten songs in your collection?

Monday, 13 November 2017

My Top ∞ Radio Songs #23: What Are You Going To Do With Your Life?

I worked on the Saturday morning show for two years while I completed my 'A' Levels, by the end of which I was virtually co-presenting the show... although it'd take another year or so to get my name on the schedule. I still wasn't getting paid, but then I was only in the building for three hours a week.

However, it was reaching the point now where I had to answer that crucial question above. Many of my friends had applied for university, yet although I was on track for good 'A' Level grades (I ended up with 2 Bs, a C and an E... in Art... so I guess that ruled out drawing comics for a living) I was adamant I didn't want to follow them. It was the old story: if you've been reading this blog for a while, you may have come to recognise the fatal character flaw I had as a teenager... I never wanted to do what everybody else was doing. Partly that was because I thought I was destined for bigger things, things I didn't need Higher Education for (after all, Steve Wright still hadn't replied to my demo tape... and my debut novel would surely be in bookshops by the middle of the 90s) and partly, if I'm brutally honest, it was parochial fear. Upping sticks from the safe, comfy, loving and supportive home my parents had always provided me felt too risky. I wasn't the most independent of teenagers, and certainly not rebellious in the traditional sense. I didn't believe I was born to run... I was born to stay where I was.

The 6th form careers adviser despaired of me. He'd have happily helped me fill out my UCAS form, but all I wanted to do was carry on working in radio. (And tinker with the writing on the side.) Of course, there wasn't actually a job going at the station where I worked... but yes, they could probably find me some more voluntary work during the week, and if I was around and available, paid opportunities would surely follow suit...

So when I finished my 'A' Levels in the summer of 1990, I walked away from my uni-bound friends... and those who were already applying for "proper" jobs... and went off to pursue my "hobby" 24/7. Surely, something spectacular would come of that... I was, after all (as most teenagers believe) destined for greatness...

#23 Echo & The Bunnymen - What Are You Going To Do With Your Life?

I realise some of these radio songs are becoming less about radio and more about my life story, but in an infinite number of posts, I'm sure I'll still have time to get to all the great radio songs I haven't yet featured. And there really was no more apt track to post than this one today...
If I knew now what I knew then
I'd wonder how not wonder when
There's something going wrong again
With me and mine
It's only ever what it seems
Memories and might have beens
Heaven's scent: the smell of dreams
We'll never find
Tell me... tell me... tell me... 

Sunday, 12 November 2017

The Neverending Top Ten #8 - Remembering The Soldiers

When I picked Sam up from nursery on Thursday evening, he paid special attention to the poppy I was wearing on my coat. I prepared myself for an awkward conversation...

For a long time - like a lot of parents do, I suppose - I have avoided addressing the subject of death with Sam as it's a concept young children struggle to get their heads around. Hell, it's a concept I struggle to get my head around. When he was younger, that was easy. You deflect, you talk about other things, you hope you can protect him from the harsh realities of the world for as long as you can. Of course, short of keeping your child in a bubble, you can't stop the world from finding its way in to their heads. We first noticed this a few months ago when Sam told us a story about a deer he had when he was a baby, that he kept in the garden, but it was dead now. I don't know where the story came from - probably something one of his friends at nursery had said - but it soon became clear that his young mind was trying to come to terms with the concept.

Then Molly died and we could avoid the truth no more. Louise, being an atheist, was keen not to fill his head with ideas of heaven. I, having grown up with religion but considering myself more of an agnostic ("an atheist who is hedging his bets"), wasn't so sure. But just as you can't protect them from the truth of the world, you can't shield them from other people's ideas either.

"Molly's chasing mice in Heaven," my sister told him. Sam pretty much ignored her and carried on playing. But a couple of weeks later it became clear he'd heard something similar from his friends... and really, it's up to him to make up his own mind about such things when he's older. The concept of an afterlife was a comfort to me when I was younger and I still cling to the idea that the soul is something that lives beyond the death of the body, though I don't subscribe to any specific religious dogma... I think the reality is something beyond our capability to properly grasp. Wow, deep, huh? Or just hedging my bets.

After Molly's death, the inevitable questions followed. "Will you die, daddy?" "Will mummy? "Will I?" We tried to answer them as best we could. As best as anyone can, religious or not. Not for a very, very long time... (I hope!)

Anyway, the poppy. When Sam noticed it, I braced myself for another of those conversations... but it turns out I needn't have worried.

"We made a poppy at nursery," he told me on the way home.

"Oh," I said. "Did you talk about what it was for?"

"To remember the soldiers," he said.

We talked about it a little more, about how the soldiers had died to save us from bad men who wanted to hurt us, then we went back to listening to our songs on the car stereo. A little later I noticed he was quiet and asked if he was OK.

"I'm just remembering the soldiers," he replied. "I don't need a poppy to do that. I can just be quiet and remember them when I want."

Yesterday morning, before watching Paddington 2, there was a minute's silence in the cinema. This morning we turned on the TV just before 11 to observe the two minute's silence at the Cenotaph. Sam stayed quiet for both. I'm not saying I think he understands now what Remembrance Day is all about, but he understands as much as a 4 year old can. Just like I try to understand, as much as a 45 year old can.

8. Radiohead - Harry Patch (In Memory Of)

Here's a song I haven't yet put on one of Sam's CDs. I will when he's older.
I am the only one that got through
The others died where ever they fell
It was an ambush
They came up from all sides
Give your leaders each a gun and then let them fight it out themselves

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Saturday Snapshots #8 - The Answers

Far too easy this week.

We went to Manchester today for a special VIP screening of Paddington 2, arranged by Louise's former employers. By the time we got back, the answers were all but sorted...

10. Political liars give Muffet top marks.

Spin Doctors are political liars.

If Little Miss Muffet got top marks, she would be Little Miss Can't Be Wrong.

One of those bands the musos always turn their noses up at, but I always loved this one - more than their bigger hit, Two Princes. At least Martin has no shame.

The Spin Doctors - Little Miss Can't Be Wrong

9. Hank and Lucinda go Scottish in search of Cockney King Tracy's diary.

Hank & Lucinda = Williams.

Scottish would make them McWilliams.

A Cockney King would be Pearly.

Spencer Tracy.

A diary is full of days.

David McWilliams - The Days of Pearly Spencer

I probably over-egged the clue on this one, but I wasn't sure you'd remember it otherwise. Charity Chic probably recognised the picture and didn't even read the clue...

8. Crazy clerics on the road to narcissism.

Way too easy, but I couldn't resist this picture. I'll give this one to Rigid Digit just to stop Martin hoovering up all this week's points.

Manic Street Preachers - You Love Us

7. 64 Captains: well built - no shit!

A Captain in the Navy is one rank below a Commodore (or something... go look it up yourself).

Children of the 80s will remember the Commodore 64 (although I myself had a Spectrum 48K - keeping it British... and crap).

There is a colloquial expression "built like a brick shithouse"... I'm not sure whether they say this in America, but Brian seemed to know what I was talking about.

The Commodores - Brick House

It would probably have been harder if I'd put my thumb over the top right of the camera when I snapped this picture.

6. The tin is on... you'll only get this if you collaborate.

The HEAT is on (R.I.P. Glenn)

Tin = Can

Collaborate = work together.

Canned Heat - Let's Work Together

5. Spector girl in a storm... hope she doesn't lose her coloured contacts.

One of Phil Spector's many era-defining girl groups was The Crystals.

A storm is a gale.

Brian stayed up till 1am to be first in line to guess this one. Now that's what I call dedication!

Lynchie snoozed and losed.

Crystal Gayle - Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue

4. Touch-typing jumpers visit a windy island.

I never learned to touch type. In fact, though I can type pretty damned fast, I only do it with one finger (two if you count the one on the shift key). If I was learning to touch type though, I might use this pangram...

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog

Mykonos is "The island of the winds" (according to Iffypedia, anyway).

Fleet Foxes - Mykonos

(Conicidentally, I bought the new Fleet Foxes album yesterday. I suspect it may be pretentious bullshit, but the harmonies are still glorious.)

Another one for Martin, I guess.

3. Them stained songs go Welsh... will end up in a comfy prison.

Them sang Gloria.

Jones is originally a Welsh surname.

A stained song would be tainted.

"Will end up in a comfy prison" - this was, of course, more famously covered by Soft Cell.

I didn't know that Gloria Jones was also Marc Bolan's girlfriend until I researched this post.

2. Russian landmark turns 3D because of the U.S.

Red Square is a famous Russian landmark... which would become Red Cube... or Red Box in 3D.

Martin got that too... but couldn't work out the rather obvious song "because of the U.S.". Really Martin? They only had two hits! Luckily, RD came to the rescue.

Gloriously naff 80s video ahoy!

1. Resignation In Lieu Of an old Neighbour. Serving up food for #4.

Really difficult to come up with a clue for this band. I have no idea what Rilo is: the internet tells me it related to the above acronym, but I don't know if that's anything to do with the name of Jenny Lewis's former band... or if Miss Minogue was an inspiration either. But I do love this song, it has one of the best guitar hooks I've ever heard (specifically the bit after she sings "And then there is no mystery left" about 45 seconds in... and it crops up again later). I don't know why it affects me so much; I don't normally get hung up on guitar riffs.

Well done to CC, anyway.

Thank you all for taking part, as always. I'm glad you try to guess them before clicking on the comments section and reading everybody else's answers.

Saturday Snapshots #8

A picture is worth a thousand words. Here are ten, with some rather confusing words attached. Name the artist and the song title...

10. Political liars give Muffet top marks.

9. Hank and Lucinda go Scottish in search of Cockney King Tracy's diary.

8. Crazy clerics on the road to narcissism.

7. 64 Captains: well built - no shit!

6. The tin is on... you'll only get this if you collaborate.

5. Spector girl in a storm... hope she doesn't lose her coloured contacts.

4. Touch-typing jumpers visit a windy island.

3. Them stained songs go Welsh... will end up in a comfy prison.

2. Russian landmark turns 3D because of the U.S.

1. Resignation In Lieu Of an old Neighbour. Serving up food for #4.

Lemon squeezy, right?

Friday, 10 November 2017

The Glorious 10th: My Top Ten Gimme... Songs

I'm putting The Glorious 10th on hold for a while as it's become a bit of a chore. I'm enjoying Saturday Snapshots a lot more and that's kind of made The Glorious 10th superfluous. Apologies if you enjoyed it, but the second something on your blog becomes like work, you're better off retiring it or you'll just end up resenting the whole blog. I may bring it back next year in a slightly different way (that takes less adding up). We'll see.

Anyway, here's the answers to last month's Gimme... Top Ten. You can add up your own points if you want... that was starting to give me palpitations.

10. Iggy & The Stooges - Gimme Danger

The Swede bagged this one. Classic Iggy.

9. Violent Femmes - Gimme The Car

Martin was first out of the traps this month... and he was the only one to suggest this.

8. Abba - Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight)

Most of you knew this would be a definite contender. Martin got it first by default.

7. The Subs - Gimme Your Heart

Really surprised that nobody got this, a lost power-punk gem from Stiff Records. Not to be confused with The UK Subs. This was their only single, but it was a belter.

6. Laptop - Gimme The Night

Less surprising that this one wasn't guessed, but I was very into Jesse Hartman's music 15-20 years ago, and I had hoped one of you guys might have remembered him too.

5. Queen - Gimme The Prize

Another one I'm hardly flabbergasted nobody got since the handful of you who'll admit to Queen fans promptly draw the line once the band enter the 80s. A Kind of Magic was my first Queen album though and I loved it to death - still do. This is one of many tracks from that album taken from the soundtrack of Highlander. Brian May's fireplace guitar is burning up here and how anyone can resist Freddie singing about being "the god of Kingdom Come", I'll never know.

4. Brenton Wood - Gimme Little Sign

Back to the ones you did get - well done to Lynchie & C for remembering this lost soul gem.

3. ZZ Top - Gimme All Your Lovin'

Onto the obvious ones, then. I love ZZ Top, and most of you seemed to agree that this should be in there - Walter even guessed its #3 position on my chart!

The video is a masterpiece of 80s cheese.

2. The Spencer Davis Group - Gimme Some Lovin'

Steve Winwood was still in nappies when he recorded this one. Both Jez and Walter thought it should have been Number One. They may well be right,

1. The Rolling Stones - Gimme Shelter

Lynchie called this one. End of the world desperation writ large. The Stones were rarely so powerful or scary.

Extra point to Jez for namechecking Merry Clayton.

Don't worry, Saturday Snapshots will continue... tomorrow!

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

My Top 90 Mid-Life Crisis Songs #8: 84 is the new 64

If ever there was a song that got old before its time, it's When I'm 64 by The Beatles.
I could be handy, mending a fuse
When your lights have gone
You can knit a sweater by the fireside
Sunday mornings go for a ride
Doing the garden, digging the weeds
Who could ask for more?
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I'm sixty-four?
I mean, come on - I know plenty of 64 year olds (my sister turns that age in January, for one... and she still acts younger than me... always has!) and frankly, Macca's chirpy thumbs-aloft anthem to "old age" is an insult to every one of them! And while we're on the subject, Paul - who has grandchildren called Vera, Chuck & Dave?

Fortunately, 25 years after Sgt. Pepper (in 1992... a further 25 years ago from today), Paul Heaton and Dave Hemingway gave the song-title a much-needed overhaul... with characteristic bite.

8. The Beautiful South - When I'm 84
No dribbling or incontinence
No longing for the old sixpence
Just smoking weed till age makes sense

When I'm 74
I'll dream on 
No smoking pipes and drinking bitter
No eyeing up the baby sitter
I'll trip up kids and I'll drop my litter!

When I'm 84
I'll dream on
Oh, and while we're on the subject, my mum is one year away from 90. She told me a few weeks ago that "89 is much harder than 88". So that's something to look forward to...
You're in your nineties, Arthur
Be careful with your back
Exercise your muscles
I'd rather Jack!
That last line always makes me cheer. Considering how much (as previously discussed here) I always hated The Reynolds Girls...

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

The Neverending Top Ten #7: Farmyard Cat

We have a new cat. That didn't take long, did it? It's a kitten. More on this later.

However, it seemed an appropriate time to feature this track in The Neverending Top Ten of songs my son has taken to. This was an obvious choice when putting together a compilation for him as Paddy McAloon obviously chose to write a children's song here, and - as with everything else he turns his hand to - he did an excellent job. (The lyric above could have been trite, but it always raises a smile from me.) The fact that he also managed to turn it into a love story is quite inspired!

Farmyard Cat felt rather incongruous on the album The Gunman & Other Stories: the majority of the other songs on that album had a Western feel (more Western than Country, anyway). But I'm sure they had farmyard cats in the old West too.

Sam is particularly taken with the "Mee Mee-oww!" refrain. So am I, come to think of it...

Monday, 6 November 2017

The Gone Too Soon Top Ten #1: Speedy

 This week's Saturday Snapshots inspired me to kick off a new feature I've been thinking about for a while now, focusing on bands I loved who disappeared before anyone really gave them a chance. We probably all have a few of these in our collections. I reckon I can scrape together ten if I think hard enough...

1. Speedy

Speedy then

Speedy now

It was late 1996 and I was working in the record library, mainlining promo CDs that the record companies were hurling at us to try and get airplay for their new bands. It was the height of Britpop and I was out gigging (also mostly freebies) two or three times a week. There were so many exciting new indie bands popping up, it was hard to keep up with them all, but being a comic book fan, I took special notice of the debut single by another new Sheffield band, Speedy. With chiming guitars, a brass section and even a cheer & clap chorus, Boy Wonder promised big things... even though it only made #56 in the charts.

This was followed a couple of months later by the equally glorious Anytime, Anyplace, Nowhere... by now, I was getting very excited about the album. (Though the singles chart remained uncracked.)

But Speedy's crowning glory came in May '97 with the following single, a track I still consider a lost Britpop classic... and so much better than a lot of the songs that still get played from that era. I dunno, there's something about it still sends shivers down my spine... well, you know how I love a good story song.

And then... well, not much. A further single, Going Home, was released in '98, but the record company didn't even bother to send that our way. And the album? The album never materialised.


Well, until I decided to write this post, at which point I discovered that Speedy's great lost album, New From Nowhere, had finally received an official release by the Lost Music Club record label in April 2014 - 16 years after the band went their separate ways. Better still, it's available on emusic... so I finally got myself a copy. What a wonderful world we live in. If you remember Speedy - or even if you don't, but you dig the songs above - I recommend you check it out.

I can't promise every story in this series will have such a happy ending... but I guess we'll have to wait and see.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Saturday Snapshots #7 - The Answers

Well, I think I actually won a couple this week. There were some stinkers though, so congrats for getting the ones you did...

As usual, I highly recommend giving the songs a listen if you don't know them. They're chosen because they're good ones!

10. Hatless, eyeless Mitchell, could be a Beach Boy... insists on keeping the central heating off.

Yes, as Lynchie points out, it does look a bit like "the late, great John Martyn after he's had a long weekend on the booze" (most weekends, then?) but it's not...

Hatless = Hats off... to Larry

Eyeless Mitchell = Joni without the i (well done, C)

Beach Boys = Wilson

Keeping the central heating on...?

Charity Chic got there in the end (with a little help from C), as I knew he would.

Larry Jon Wilson - Melt Not My Igloo

9. A future resident of Monaco shares Bond's Martini.

Alyson got up extra early to be first to spot this youngster... surely she couldn't possibly remember him when he looked like this?

Monaco = (Princess) Grace-land

Bond's Martini = shaken, not stirred

Elvis Presley - All Shook Up

8. Pretty good at bathroom renovation; will also clean up if she fancies you enough.

Took you a while, and caused much debate over what she was wearing...

Pretty = Bonnie

For your bathroom renovation, I'd recommend a good Tyler

Will clean up...?

Bonnie Tyler - Loving You's A Dirty Job, But Somebody's Got To Do It

The Swede & Alyson tag-teamed this one.

7. Twiddly diddly dee (generic version) have a slow teacher.

Gave Lynchie no problems at all - though CC was kicking himself.

Twiddly diddly dee = Rocking Robin, a more generic version woud be a Rockingbird

A slow teacher would have you Gradually Learning

The Rockingbirds - Gradually Learning

6. Holy Sidekicks, Batman - Gonzales was a mouse!

The one nobody got, which is a shame... but hardly surprising. The clues were pretty easy if you knew the band / track. But not many people do. More on that tomorrow...

Speedy - Boy Wonder

5. Liberal philosophy on the John: it's only a crowded house, geezer.

Big expert on liberal philosophers, me. Apparently, there's one called John Rawls.

The John is also what some people call a Loo.

Crowded House sang It's Only Natural.

A geezer is another name for a man.

Lou Rawls - A Natural Man

Lynchie was first to get Lou; nobody got the song.

4. Scissor Sisters' girl goes off road while eating too many chocolate bars.

The Swede swooped in to take this one.

The Scissor Sisters sang Laura.

If you go off the road, you might veer...

A popular chocolate bar in the UK is a Galaxy.

Laura Viers - Galaxies

3. Herbie & Hutch: THE HORROR!

I thought I was going to beat you with this one until The Swede dug deep...

Herbie was The Love Bug

Hutch was partnred with Starsky

The Amityville Horror was a favourite book and film when I was a teenager.

Lovebug Starski - Amityville (House On The Hill)

2. You've got zero chance of getting off without suffocating.

(Your first guess will probably be wrong.)

I knew this wouldn't trouble Alyson... though it took a while to get to the right song.

If you were suffocating, there might be a problem with your Air Supply.

Getting off is another way of saying "Making Love".

Zero = Nothing

Air Supply - Making Love Out Of Nothing At All

Second Steinman song of the week!

1. Jenny Agutter inspires a Schubert opera.

Took The Swede about five seconds...

The Lilac Time is the British name of Das Dreimäderlhaus, a Schubert light opera.

In the Railway Children, Jenny Agutter waved at trains.

The Lilac Time - The Girl Who Waves At Trains

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