Monday, December 31, 2007

Hootenanny Malarkey

So what are you doing New Year's Eve?

After too many years of high-expectation evenings that ended in disappointment, rows, vomit, physical violence (once) and excessively-priced cab journeys home (always), me and Mrs H decided quite some time ago that Staying In might be the New Going Out for this night. So we loaded up on the champers and the Guinness and the logs and the coal for the fire and shoved on a bit of Jools and - it was lovely. Then we had the babies and staying in seemed kind of necessary anyhow. Then the babies got bigger and we went out in the pre-mad early part of the evening to a local restaurant we could walk to, and then home and put them to bed and champers and Guinness and Jools and...and so it stayed.

I would quite like to go out - but only if it could be to one of those New Year parties they have in old movies where it's New York City in 1961 and everyone's dressed for dinner and wearing pointy hats and there's a big clock on the wall that rings the chimes and ticker tape comes down at 12 and a swing band plays 'Auld Lang Syne' and we dance through the night (before getting an excessively-priced cab home, probably).

It's a funny old night.

From experience I'd say if it makes you sad, have a bath, go to bed early, wake up without a hangover, go for a walk and be glad you're alive. If it makes you happy, make someone else happy and know that I envy you.

This is my favourite version of my favourite New Year's Eve song ever, no contest - Frank Loesser, whaddaguy.

Nancy Wilson - 'What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?' (1963)

Happy 2008 lovely people x

Sunday, December 30, 2007

(Old) Song For The Departing Year

God I loved this band; and I changed my life when this record came out you know...

I vow that it's goodbye
To the old ways

See you tomorra for a NYE postie...

Friday, December 28, 2007

Monday, December 24, 2007

It Is Christmas Eve Babe

And so...we tell stories.

And in the stories are all our hopes and fears - all the things we want to be and all the things we try to flee.

But at this time our hopes most of all; that there can be a place where we default to goodwill, that everyone is loved, that the lowly are as important as the rich - and that there shall be peace, for ever and ever amen.

And we bring our gifts, which are nothing special, but are all we can afford.

And we want it so hard to be true, this time..


'My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?'

- Bob Hope

Merry Christmas everyone and thanks so much for being here throughout the year.

This blog is now closed for the season.


Jeff Buckley - 'Corpus Christi Carol' (1994)
John Lennon - 'Imagine (Take 1)' (1971)

Friday, December 21, 2007

Let Me Feel Happy Just One More Time

It's the last Friday before Christmas and I think we deserve a little dance tonight don't you? And here's the weirdest thing; something made me want to post Kim Weston and I went to look her up and I found it was her birthday yesterday too. Shpooky.

Is she the best least-famous Motown diva ever and is 'Take Me In Your Arms' the greatest Motown single Joe Public has never heard?

Yes, very possibly! Now turn these up loud, get off your harris and get out on that floor!

Kim Weston - 'Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me A Little While)' (1965)

Kim Weston - 'Helpless' (1966)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Old Bragg Fan's Fight Song

Stone me but the Bard Of Barking is 50 of your English years old today.

He's the artist I've seen 'live' most over the past 20-odd years, through all the benefits and the protests and the campaigns and the celebrations and yes, through all those Prime Ministers too: the last time was on the England, Half English tour where we soberly had to conclude that the new songs were not exactly brilliant; the best times probably the nights at the Town & Country Club Camden, The Thatch on the Holloway Road and the back room at The Half Moon Putney where we said hello to him at the bar before he went on.

He was always funny and modest and righteously angry and true, and he often made us cry.

So Happy Birthday Stephen William Bragg, electric busker, one-man Clash, songwriter, author, pundit, protester and Dad.

You don't need our Christmas Cards, you already have our hearts...

Billy Bragg - 'Days Like These' (1985)
Billy Bragg - 'Ontario, Quebec And Me' (1991)
Billy Bragg - 'Brickbat' (1996)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Happy Christmas Yer Arse

I work alone dahlink, so I do not get an 'office party'. Instead I usually get together with a couple of old muckers who also now work for themselves for 'the office Christmas party for people without offices'. This is much better than those 'team' lunches used to be, mostly because the jollity is genuine rather than forced, no-one makes you go back to work afterwards and you don't have to spend two hours in the not-so-thrilling company of Philip from Bought Ledger (bless him).

I'm off to this 'event' today: it'll start in a swanky West End restaurant and end up in a boozer and that's just how it should be. Then tonight I'm trolling down to Brixton to see The Pogues. Ha! Sweet sherries all round then - and Nurofen and Lemsip tomorrow I shouldn't wonder.

So the obvious thing to post at this point would be that song, but I'm not going to because I figure a) most of you will already have it b) those of you who haven't but want it should go buy it because apparently it may prevent the thoroughly rubbish Leon Jackson (who unlike some previous winners of the X Factor cannot even sing in tune) from becoming the UK Christmas Number One. It was riding high on downloads alone, has just been reissued and is probably more likely to do the 'block' job than Malcolm Middleton; and at least it's a proper Christmas record.

So, for the craic instead..

The Pogues - 'Sally MacLennane' (1985)

Sigh. Wish me luck companeros and I'll (hopefully) meet you here tomorrow, but please, nothing too loud then.

Sunday, December 16, 2007


They really don't make 'em like this anymore...

Friday, December 14, 2007

A Ronco Christmas

'From Ronco....the Perfect Christmas Gift....' - ah, how that phrase brings back the memories.

You know, for a small-town English household I think we had quite a lot of Ronco stuff - the Veg-O-Matic, the Buttoneer ('leave the sewing to grandma!') the thing you could brush the sofa with then flip round and the dust would come off again (what was that called?) and of course, the Christmas LPs - most notably 'Ronco Presents - A Christmas Present' (co-ordinates 9, 3 on the grid display above - blue snowscene cover just level with that bloke's shoulder).

Johnny Cash singing 'Peace On Earth', Tony Bennett doing 'Chestnuts Roasting', Doris Day's lip quivering take on 'Toyland' and a tremendously euphoric orchestral 'Carol Of The Bells' - they were all here. Big stars, yes, but there must have been contractual tussles a-plenty because no-one was singing the Christmas songs they actually made famous (Johnny Mathis did 'White Christmas' if I recall...not right that is it?).

Anyway easily the best thing about the record was the gatefold sleeve that opened into an ingeniously crafted cardboard pop-up of Santa's workshop at the North Pole; we used to put this proudly on top of the telly every year it was so good! Yes! You can keep your Radiohead box sets!

I've been after this track in particular from 'A Christmas Present' for years and finally tracked down a digital version last week from what I suspect is the internet equivalent of a dodgy bloke in the pub car park.

So here it is in all its glory for your Yuletide delectation. It'll make you happy! It'll make you want to sip 70s cocktails! It'll make you wish you kept your Record-o-Vac-o-Matic to give that vinyl a right good hoovering!

Aretha Franklin - 'Kissin' By The Mistletoe' (date unknown - timeless)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

These Moments Given

This isn't 'a Christmas song' in the usual sense but I associate it with the time of year because of the lyrics (of which more in a bit) and because I got the album it is from for Christmas the year it came out.

It most certainly falls into the category of Songs That Frequently Make Me Cry (Especially After A Few Mulled Wines); a moment when an artist's vision seems to crystallise into a single piece. It's about nothing less than the fragility of this life *gulp*- and it's all the more poignant when you learn that Kate Bush lost her mother while working on the record.

The song is full of images of precarious beauty

On a balcony in New York
It's just started to snow
He meets us at the lift
Like Douglas Fairbanks waving his walking stick.

But he isn't well at all...

I seem not to be alone in loving this track. It's nominated by a reader in The Word's website thread on The Greatest Bits Ever in songs ....'the last 2 minutes are all gorgeous, but when she sings 'Hey there Michael, d'you really love me?' in THAT voice. Michael's not about to say no'


I have to say I find Kate's 'official' Christmas song (from the Lionheart/Never For Ever era) a tad over-trilling - but this one does it for me every time.

Kate Bush - 'Moments Of Pleasure' (1993)

Hey! Some party music tomorrow. Maybe.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Nadolig Llawen

You can read on the internet that this song 'is based on the short story by Dylan Thomas' but I can't see a connection beyond the use of the title, and perhaps a similar stream-of-seasonal-consciousness in the rhythm of its words; in fact, the Cale song doesn't mention Christmas at all, but does Halloween - which with the mistletoe and 'candle green' and 'murdered oranges' seems to evoke a kind of impressionistic paganism, if anything. Anyway, I've absolutely loved it ever since Stevie my small Welsh friend slapped in on a tape for me twentysomething years ago, and I hope you will too.

John Cale - 'A Child's Christmas In Wales' (1973)

Cale's work outside of the VU is always interesting, sometimes very strange and frequently glorious and I'd heartily recommend more to you; this song's album is a good place to start.

These Northern hemisphere dark nights and short days, these firelit evenings, make me long for a good bedtime story. Perhaps like me you'll tuck up with this tonight. As my (honorary) Auntie Haulwen would have said - 'Nos da'.

'A Child's Christmas In Wales' (part 1) - read by Dylan Thomas (1952)
'A Child's Christmas In Wales' (part 2) - read by Dylan Thomas (1952)

Saturday, December 08, 2007

A Post For Blue Saturday

The rain falls, the whisky pours...bring on the Amy.

You take care now Ms W x

Friday, December 07, 2007

We Are The Mods

I wish this was a picture of my copy of this issue of Smash Hits but I'm afraid the whole ring-bound lot of them got shoved in the Aged Ps recycling sometime last year. Yes! That recently! Until then they'd been preserved in the bedside table of my childhood room, the table on top of which the red digital Bush clock-radio sat, radio dial lit up tungsten yellow at night as I listened to the Radio Luxembourg chart rundown till eleven, then the news and the 'powerplay', with the volume down low so's not to wake them in the room next door.

I can't be objective about this record because every time I hear it, I hear it that first time - it felt like ours, a statement from the side of the school disco who'd take a Tamla Motown tune over any other and had started turning up at proper grown up night clubs wearing our Dads' discarded thin, navy, 60s ties and v-neck pullovers and pointy shoes and officially not giving a shit.

The Jam were our Beatles and Secret Affair looked for a glorious, brief moment like they might be our Small Faces - tight and soul-flecked and sharp and purple-hearted up - and Ian Page was young, so young and cool.

They weren't our Faces. We bought or taped and danced to their singles but we didn't invest in their albums. The Jam kept movin' on up and even they were gone in a few years. We hit the Upper Sixth and a few of us started bringing jazz records in. Noodly huh? End of an era.

Secret Affair - 'Time For Action' (1979)

Thursday, December 06, 2007


It's raining like bejasus here this morning and doesn't look like stopping anytime soon. I really can't get my head round the Christmas thing just yet (too early), but I have been enjoying some winter-themed songs instead.

This lovely little thing from Bob Dylan's rather neglected New Morning album, which he sings in his warm ol' Nashville Skyline voice, has cheered me very much, and against all odds, on this dull December day.

Bob Dylan - 'Winterlude' (1970)

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Lost In The Nineties

Why do some great records go unsung? Lots of reasons I suppose [insert yours here], but sometimes I reckon bands are just unlucky - they get signed - fine; they get the album done - lovely; it's released to good reviews in serious papers - excellent; and then....then nothing much.

They fail to capture the zeitgeist, whatever that is, don't get played much on the radio, don't build that groundswell of support through gigging we all hear so much about, get drowned out by noisier others - maybe just aren't brassy enough to tart their wares as required. And, let's face it, a fair bit of tarting is required. What's more, ten years ago there weren't even bloggers to come on to...

And so, this. A good record! That's been around for 11 years! But I am the only person I know that owns it and I've never seen it in one of those 'critical lists' - not even one of the smarter ones.

It's witty, melodic, original, urban - and charts in down-at-heel poetry a (Jarvis) Cockeresque world of garden sheds, laundrettes, corner shops, KitKats, Giros and getting drunk on cheap sherry. With trumpet bits!

The magnificent 'Faded Glamour' (the single) is very easily the best thing on it - so if you play that first, do please take care that your expectations are not impossibly highly-raised - yet rest assured, many delights follow.

I'll spare you the biographical mallarkey because you can work the Wiki as well as I can, although you may find there is more grit in the oyster, and love for your traffic, here.

Animals That Swim - 'Faded Glamour' (1996)
Animals That Swim - 'A Good Xmas' * (1996)
Animals That Swim - 'The Longest Road' (1996)
Animals That Swim - 'Despatches From Lula' (1996)

[* See how I smuggled this blog's first Christmas song post in there? I know. I impress myself sometimes, I really do]

Monday, December 03, 2007

Cunning Stunts

I can't let the passing of an icon of our 70s childhoods go uncommemorated. It was because of Evel Knievel and his increasingly daring (aka 'cracked') vehicle and canyon leaping motorcycle stunts that we tried to pull wheelies on our Raleigh Choppers and Tomahawks and assembled odd bits of plank and plywood in the back lane into perilous 'jumps' (the plywood always snapped).

My best friend Steve had the Evel Knievel action figure and stunt bike that you charged by winding a big plastic wheel then released at speed to careen across the living room carpet and crash spectacularly into stunt props or, possibly, the horribly exposed ankle of a passing sibling. You could even get a toy version of the rocket he used to not-quite-cross Snake River Canyon in Twin Falls, Idaho.

It was Evel Knievel this, Evel Knievel that. For a while only Starsky & Hutch loomed larger in our canon of boyhood saints. There were even Evel Knievel jokes, as Mrs H reminded me the other night, viz:

Q: 'Why was Evel Knievel late home?'
A: 'Because he missed the last bus'

(This very British joke must date from 1975 and Knievel's Wembley Stadium attempt to jump 13 single-decker buses. He crashed - and announced his retirement - but was back jumping five months later).

Knievel died on Friday having suffered from diabetes and pulmonary fibrosis for many years, the climactic ailments in a long chain that began with blood transfusion-contracted Hepatitis C.

I suppose we really should be playing something contemporaneous in tribute, like Chris Spedding's 'Motorbiking' from 1975 - which I don't have; this, however, seems equally apt...

Aztec Camera - 'Jump' (1984)


Friday, November 30, 2007

Yes Sir

Ah, a sultry Spanish-accented vocal, lush disco strings and a lyric that deploys the oldest euphemism in pop (‘I can boogie all night long’ – I bet you can love).

They’ll have worked ages on that dance routine too.

My French pen-pal had a cassette compilation of disco classics and I’m certain this was on it, along with Donna Summer’s sublime ‘Down Deep Inside’ from 'The Deep’ (music by John Barry).

Phew. Baccara and Donna Summer moaning and Jacqueline Bisset jumping in and out of the sea in the most famous white T-shirt in movies. For me 1977 was a year of awakening - and punk rock had nothing to do with it…

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Reason To Believe

I can't claim to have been a Rod Stewart fan back in the early 70s (I was really more of a Chigley fan at the time) and when I had got old enough to be buying records regularly, he'd gone rubbish disco, leopard skin & spandex and 'Sailing' (worse was to come) and was therefore the antichrist; but of course like any right-thinking person I had always acknowledged the genius of 'Maggie May' and in 1991, when it was all My Bloody Valentine and Catherine Wheel and Ride around here, I forked out somewhat controversially on this two CD set one Saturday shop in Camden, determined to finally get my head and ears around seminal early Rod.

I was 26 - coincidentally, and fittingly, the same age Rod had been when he recorded Every Picture Tells A Story.

And what treasures lay there....

I mean, I knew the bloke could sing from his work with The Faces in particular, but such great lyrics too and such fabulous playing from Ron Wood, Ian McLagan, Martin Quittenton (that hallmark Rod-solo acoustic guitar sound) and others.

This is witty, heartfelt, dirty, beer-soaked Brit rock-soul played by pros who'd paid their dues, and it shows. As I get more grizzled and old, it sounds even better - and Oasis, you may keep crying your hearts out...

Rod Stewart - 'Every Picture Tells A Story' (1971)
Rod Stewart - 'Mandolin Wind' (1971)
Rod Stewart - 'Reason To Believe' (1971)

[The Mercury Anthology is out of print now, but this one-CD comp covers the period nicely. My favourite anti-Rod quote is from Tom Waits, who said of his cover of 'Tom Traubert's Blues' - 'If I'd have known that bastard was going to record it, I never woulda written it'].

Monday, November 26, 2007

Some Songs For Dark November

We had a night drive out of London and into The Country to make on Saturday, and because I can't plug my iPo into the car stereo (why isn't this standard in all motors by now?) I decided to shove 10 songs I'm currently liking onto a rewritable CD for the journey.

It's been a while since we've had a song list here and I know how much you like one; it struck me that the tracks on this CD pretty much sum up what I'm into at the moment and taken together have that requisite sad, dark, late November feel to them.

Listing them also gives me an opportunity to thank a couple of blogger companeros for recent musical introductions (if they'll forgive me reposting their stuff) and announce my first discovery from Last FM, which I finally got going with properly last week (from now on, should you wish, you can follow what I'm playing via the Last FM widget thing on the right there in the sidebar. What larks.)

Anyhow, here's the list (or CD, if you will)...

David Sylvian - 'Darkest Dreaming' (1999)
From this. And if there's a better dark-winter-night-song, I haven't heard it.

Hooverphonic - 'Circles' (2007)
Result! A few hours after downloading the software that connects (ahem - 'scrobbles') what you're playing in iTunes to their site so they can hook you up with musical 'neighbours' Last FM introduces me to this band. Still looking to chart their landscape maaan but boy, do I love this. They're Belgian, have been around since the mid-90s, and this is from their new LP. Site here.

Catherine Howe - 'Up North' (1971)
Unspeakably gorgeous to my ears and I have the lovely Beth to thank for the introduction. There's a bit of a Vashti Bunyan story to this: former actor Howe recorded this album in 1971 on an independent label which soon after went bust - the album lay largely unheard for thirty years until recent re-release. She did have a radio hit in the mid-70s with the song 'Harry' which Terry Wogan liked a lot, but you shouldn't let that put you off. More here.

Emma Pollack - 'Paper & Glue' (2007)
I didn't have a lot of The Delgados stuff but always liked what I heard. This leapt out at me from a live session she did on Radcliffe and Maconie's prog last week.

Lucy Kaplansky - 'More Than This' (2007)
Another from Beth - and a weepie. From this.

The Killers - 'Romeo & Juliet' (2007)
I suppose that after the Springsteenisms of Sam's Town, a Knopfler cover was inevitable. From this, their Hatful Of Hollow, which perhaps Santa will bring me. Inexplicably sound - but it always was a good song, as my good friend Mart and the Tutu Vicar will surely attest.

David Sylvian - 'The Scent Of Magnolia' (1999)
I'm sort of obsessed with Sylvian right now - it's an autumn thing. This is an out-take from Dead Bees On A Cake and I have the tireless Jon at The Vinyl District to thank for bringing it to my attention.

Tom Waits- 'All The World Is Green' (2002)
Tom Waits - 'Take It With Me' (1999)
And if it's not Sylvian at the moment it's gonna be Tom. Reading this is inspiring me to plug many gaps in my Waits collection; Toad getting sentimental about 'Take It With Me' helped too... From this and this respectively, but you knew that.

The Teardrop Explodes - 'The Great Dominions' (1981)
Ah, the last and greatest track on Wilder - headphone music from when I was 16. And was it in The Guardian's 1000 albums list? Was it heck. Though Kilimanjaro was, to be fair.

That's it: total running time 45:05 - aka one side of a C90, the best compilation length of all. Go buy stuff!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Not Cool

Friday night and I'm 13 years of age - rushing my tea down (Mum's fish and chips), begging the old man for a lift: off to 2-3 Club and the school disco... and this.
I thought it thrillingly original when I first heard it - the tense little guitar and piano intro, the big-riff saxophone rush to the West Side Story finger snaps and groovy bass line, the lyrics about a world we actually lived in ('little Judy's trying to watch Top Of The Pops') the dramatic shifts in tempo and melody - and it used to go down a storm in the lights-out school hall as the Class Outsider flailed his scrawny limbs and twisted his four-foot-nothing frame into weird shapes to narrate the whole thing from the centre of the dance floor like the manic lead of some avant garde ballet troupe.

We loved it. It was an epic. It was our epic - big and dramatic and clever but (cake-and-eat it!) apparently New Wave too! Johnny Fingers wore pyjamas in the street! WILD!


Then we heard early Springsteen and Thin Lizzy and we started to realise that Geldof was really not much more than the sum of his influences. And seriously pre-punk (oh! the shame of it!).

And within a year or so, he was definitely uncool and Rats singles were commonly to be found in the 'reduced to 30p' box in Woolies...

Ah, the fickle fingers of fate 'n' youth.

The Boomtown Rats - 'Rat Trap' (1978)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Fred Perry Knew My Father

Some of you may have formed the unfortunate impression from these pages that I am some crusty old pint-swilling nostalgist, but as I'm sure you will conclude when I share with you my current enthusiasm for this lot, I am actually a hip urban warrior who is 'down' with the 'kids'.

The Enemy - 'We'll Live And Die In These Towns' (2007)
The Enemy - 'You're Not Alone' (2007)

Blame my mate Carlos who listens to a lot of XFM.

[The Enemy's MySpace is here. Buy their stuff!]

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

One Of Those Days In England

Hmm... and it pissed down too.

Oh - if you find a CD with all my bank details on it, let me know eh?

The Smiths - 'Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now' (1984)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Keeping The Faith

If you've been hanging around here for a while (and I do sympathise) you might remember an anciente poste of mine about those fabulous Fulham nearly-men The Faith Brothers.

'...they were a fabulous band, especially live - all soaring melodies, urgent brass, elatory vocals and humanistic commitment. Lead singer/writer Billy Franks was a passionate and charismatic frontman - even when long after the band's glory days (supporting The Alarm!) performing to a few hundred with his soul band in 'The Leather Bottle' pub in Wimbledon Chase'.

A number of us remembered Billy as an excellent singer and were rather thrilled, but perhaps not too surprised, to discover that he was also a very groovy guy, prepared to offer downloads of the long out-of-print Faith Brothers albums from his personal website and asking only voluntary donations for the same.

Less happily, in a way, he was also playing free gigs on Sunday nights in a Shepherd's Bush boozer...

Well, I've very much enjoyed having The Faith Brothers back in my listening roster this year after so long (all their music I had was on lost or unplayable cassettes) and was thrilled skinny to learn this week from Billy's site that he has booked the 2000 capacity Shepherd's Bush Empire for a gig in May 2008 and is 'hoping to fill it'.

He's also uploaded more music - this time B-sides, live tracks and Radio 1 session recordings.

Here's what I think - 1) everyone who remembers the Faith Brothers or Franks' solo work with any affection should help publicise the gig - word of mouth is a powerful thing and the word of the blogosphere may be more powerful still 2) anyone within reasonable travelling distance of West London should be at it. I will! (cheers, thanks for asking, mine's a pint).

Oh, and in the unlikely event that you are a live music marketing guru with time on your hands and a philanthropic bent, perhaps you could give Billy a bell? I get the impression he's doing all this by himself at the moment...

Faith Brothers - 'Eventide (live)' (1985)
Faith Brothers - 'A Stranger On Home Ground (live)' (1985)
Faith Brothers - 'Easter Parade (early version)' (1985?)

[this fan site isn't going to win any web design awards - but hey! it has a discography!]

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Rave On Zang Tuum Tumb

Another £1 gem from the Romanian Orphans Charidee Shop. Very Saturday night at Fac 51 eh?

Sorted, top - yo a stuodent or wha'?

808 State - 'Pacific 202' (1989)

Friday, November 16, 2007


You know, there are people who think we are foolish for having such things as 'favourite ever bass-lines' - but these people, let me tell you, are shallow.

Chic - 'I Want Your Love' (1979)


Ah yes, a couple of Nurofens and a slug of Lemsip and a long hot shower and a bit of a lie down and I'll be fine.

I used to be able to sink six pints with equanimity but now it seems my ageing mortal frame is likely to protest after four, and it wasn't on an empty stomach or mixing the grape and grain or any of those other things your mother warned you about either.

Still, the lights of the South Bank were twinkling, the company (my good friend Dr Al) was convivial and I am unable to answer the missus's 'So what's the news?' question this morning, which means we spent the evening talking about things that really matter like how good Tom Waits's One From The Heart soundtrack is, why Bob Dylan's songs are great but his albums are mostly rubbish and how men never ask for directions when they are lost but women can't tell north from south.

And it's Friday. Have I peaked too soon?

If I stick to the white wine tonight and knock up a half-decent DavyH prawn curry into the bargain then I guess I should make it through. It could be worse.

Mary Gauthier - 'I Drink' (2005)
Aretha Franklin - 'Drinking Again' (1964)
Dean Martin - 'Little Ole Wine Drinker Me' (1967)
Tom Waits - 'The Piano Has Been Drinking (Not Me)' (1976)

[One hour later: that beer's starting to look quite tasty. Good old Lemsip]

Thursday, November 15, 2007

On Not Taking Things At Face Value

It was yesterday's Frida post (Happy Birthday Frida!) that set this off in the end, but it's been weighing on my mind for a while and I need to let it out.

Phil Collins has made some of the worst records I have ever heard, records so bad I would leave the room, cross the road or throw myself off of the proverbial train to avoid hearing; surely that bloody 'Against All Odds' whinge and the sputum-inducing 'Another Day In Paradise' are literally execrable and the whole chirpy cockney geezer and cuddly multi-millionaire Tory-donates-to-charidee schtick is beyond endurance - and, and, AND...! YET....
And yet.

1. The man can play the drums (big, muscular, right-through-your-diaphragm thumping, sounds like no-one else).
2. I flipping well love quite a lot of Face Value (and I bet you do too)
3. He gave Genesis some much-needed welly when Gabriel left and they had seriously disappeared up their own harrises (they disappeared back up there again soon afterwards of course).
4. Despite a largely nonsensical lyric, this Philip Bailey track from the PC-produced album of (almost) the same name is a CORKER (a great vocal yes, but those drums! again!!) and a frequent and elatory accompaniment to our good time Friday nights.

Pah! Don't ask me to explain or justify - never explain or justify that's my motto - and please don't burden me with all that guilty pleasures mallarkey (guilty? about music? No, feel guilty about lovers betrayed and violent crimes committed against the person, not about the records you like).

But thank you for listening.

And no, Abacab isn't anywhere.

Philip Bailey - 'Walking On The Chinese Wall' (1984)

(Oh go on then, here's the drumming gorilla too).

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Grattis pa fodelsedagen!

That there Frida from ABBA is 62 (!) tomorrow.

Mind you, as her mother was Norwegian and her father German, perhaps I should have posted Happy Birthday in a language other than Swedish - and you'll probably tell me its incorrect anyhow, but hey! that's why I love ya.

Poor old Anni-Frid...never voted Rear Of The Year and forever Not The Blonde One (in fact she has shown a remarkable predeliction for dying her hair a range of unfortunate colours over the years) she was a pop star of some standing in Sweden before ABBA (yes! like the Blonde One!) but despite tirelessly chipping away at it in the 80s and 90s failed to crack that post-group solo career. I blame Phil Collins, for this and many other things, frankly.

I wanted to post a video clip of Frida singing 'I Wonder (Departure)' from The Album to celebrate, but no such footage is to be found on YouTube, unless we include photo-montage thingies posted by borderline psychotic "I HEART FRIDA!!!!" fans, and I really don't think we should.

So here instead is an equally cracking track from the 'Voulez Vous' album. I like to hear this of a Friday night with our in-house disco lights going, personally.

I confess it was all Agnetha, Agnetha, Agnetha for me too as a pre-adolescent tike, but in maturity I am glad to say that I have found much consolation and joy in the arms of brunettes....

Monday, November 12, 2007

Wild In The Country

Your Monday heartstarter comes courtesy of my local charity shop where last week I picked this up on CD for £1.00. Less than the bus fare there! (except I walked). Don't you just love it when in amongst all the 'Uncut' magazine Playlist CDs and Dance Trax 95 compilations you find a real gem like this?

This is Roxy's fourth album and some think their finest. Tux crooner-mode Ferry shows signs of emerging from inside of the art-rock thrash but doesn't yet dominate, and the songwriting is tiptop throughout.
Oh, and for those of you who take an interest in these things...'the supposedly 'uncredited' cover models are in fact named on the album - but not as models. They were Constanze Karoli (reportedly the sister of Can's Michael Karoli) and Eveline Grunwald, who are credited on the lyric sheet with the German translation of "Bitter-Sweet." Bryan Ferry met them in Portugal and persuaded them to do the photo shoot as well as help with the words to the song' (Wiki).

So there you go.

Roxy Music - 'All I Want Is You' (1974)
Roxy Music - 'A Really Good Time' (1974)

(Buy here - or keep trawling them charity racks...Thanks for all the comments to the 'last post' x)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

In Memoriam

Is not the first one. There were
Other wars before it.
When the last one came to an end
There were conquerors and conquered.
Among the conquered the common people
Among the conquerors
The common people starved too.

(Bertolt Brecht)

In memoriam all victims of war.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Two Days To Live

Don't know what it is about this Friday, maybe it's just been a hard day's night; we've done funk 'n' soul 'n' house 'n' reggae 'n' tarty 80s classix but this time only loud moddy-boy guitars'll do...

Button badges on your parkas everyone, we're off down Brighton for a rumble.

The Jam - 'Here Comes The Weekend' (1977)
The Chords - 'Maybe Tomorrow' (1979)
The Who - 'The Kids Are Alright' (1965)
The Libertines - 'Time For Heroes' (2002)

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Pegged (cont.)

This bloody Reader's Digest 'Mystery Gift' * peg solitaire from the 1970s that I rescued on my recent visit to the Aged Ps is driving everyone in our house to distraction.

For the uninitiated I should explain that the purpose of the game is to remove pegs by jumping them with others, checkers style (vertically and horizontally, but not diagonally) until just one peg remains - in the centre hole.

Can I do it? No dear reader, I cannot - and sadly that has been the case since I first attempted it, aged 8.

I know there'll be lots of boffins out there on the interweb who'll have posted the solution, but that's not in the spirit of the thing is it?

Can anyone actually do it without cheating?

You can have a go at it on your computer here (and there's a load of formulae for cracking it underneath, but if you use them Your God will know and Punish you).
If you manage to do it, I hate you.

* A mystery gift was what you got when you bought mail order items from The Reader's Digest. My Dad, as we have discussed here previously, bought a lot of LP box sets. The mystery gift, though it promised so much, was almost always a piece of shite. This one is the only one we kept.

A Picasso Doodle

The story goes that in his 80s the great artist Pablo Picasso is invited onto a TV talk show. The talk show host thinks it would be a wheeze if Picasso creates a work of art during the show's live transmission. Picasso agrees. They cut to another item for a few minutes and when they return to Picasso he has completed a simple pen doodle on the paper supplied him.

'Well come off it Mr Picasso' says the talk show host. 'It's taken you maybe two minutes to do that drawing, but it would probably sell for a million dollars. How do you feel about that?'

Picasso looks him in the eye and says

'My friend, it took me 80 years to draw that'...

I feel the same about this simple sketch by a musical artist often compared to Picasso (whom he very much admired).

On the surface it's a simple instrumental version of a decent little pop song.

But listen carefully and you hear 60 years of artistry and emotion inside it.

I've posted the original too because feckit, I quite like that as well.

Miles Davis - 'Time After Time' (1985)
Cyndi Lauper - 'Time After Time' (1983)

[The Miles originally from this and the Cyndi available on this]

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Words Of Advice

I put 'Carousel' on for my girls on Sunday. They watched it for a bit, then went upstairs to play.

I watched it all and ended up in pieces. Again.

Baz Luhrmann - 'Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen' (1999)

Material feat. William S. Burroughs - 'Words Of Advice' (1994

Monday, November 05, 2007


My favourite cover of my favourite song from my favourite Elvis Costello album (probably) - just for November 5th.

Did you ever have indoor fireworks when you were a kid? They were rubbish weren't they? And my mum said the house smelt of them for days afterwards. But that was probably just the old man's cigars.

Laura Cantrell - 'Indoor Fireworks' (2005)

[Generously available free from Laura - along with a number of other rarities - here]

Saturday, November 03, 2007

And On The Conveyor Belt Tonight...

'X Factor' and 'Strictly Come Dancing' ? PAH!

This is what we called Saturday night entertainment when I were a lad.

I hope he remembers that nice spice oil and vinegar rack...

Friday, November 02, 2007

The Notting Hill Set

I went to meet my very good friend Dr Al for a pint up at Notting Hill Gate recently and with lots of time to spare and a nice evening settling in, decided not to take my usual bus up there from Shepherd's Bush Green but to stay on the Hammersmith & City Line to Ladbroke Grove and make the walk up Portobello Rd.

I used to hang out in this area a fair bit - in the back room of the Earl Of Lonsdale mostly with my 'in an indie band' mates and my bought in Camden Market leather jacket, drinking pints of Samuel Smiths Old Brewery Bitter and trying to look rock and roll. Emphasis on the word 'trying'.

Realistically it is probably 15 years since I last walked those streets.

Unsurprisingly I suppose, but it still came as shock to me, the red flock wallpaper sticky-carpet corner pubs are all now chi chi bar-restaurants with covered terraces, the second-hand record shops, piercing and tattoo parlours are emporia for brightly-coloured soft furnishings, chrome table lamps and designer DAB radios and the always-on-the-edge vibe of the place, which I am not romanticising but which gave it an inner city something, has been firmly supplanted by the well-heeled and rather smug ambiance of young Cameronistas living in £3.5M Georgian terrace houses.

I felt like I'd stepped out of the Tardis - which in a way, I had.

May I then good people, as the soft pinko liberal nostalgist that I am, offer for your Friday night delectation three songs in honour of the W10 I kinda miss.

And yes before you ask, I miss rickets and open sewers too.

I Roy - 'Black Man Time' (1973)
The Clash - 'Groovy Times' (1979)
The Clash - 'One More Time' (1980)

Play LOUD.

[PS: All the music files on this page are now up & running again - with MediaFire]

Thursday, November 01, 2007

'And I Strive For Purity'

You know how it is sometimes, a scratchy day, scratchy times. Minor irritations, major worries; and to boot, its getting dark early. I'm sorry, has this blog been a little blue lately? I dunno.

Tonight I went out driving, just to the supermarket - load up with wine and get the ingredients for a Good Fish Pie, that always cheers me up. And I drove through the most amazing South West London suburban sunset as an Airbus A320 sliced across the sky, kind of low - on its way into Heathrow. A big, pink/golden stretched London sky, and the fumes from the MOT-failing car in front of me spewing up my air con.

Last knockings of summer, 1st of November.

This playing on the in-car CD. *sigh*

Tom Waits - 'Grapefruit Moon' (1973)

Moments like this, you know you're alive.

[That's not my picture. No camera in the car. But the sky was even pinker; you'll have to trust me on that.]


It's Fileden's 'time of the month' again which means that because of bandwidth mallarkey the older MP3 files here won't be downloadable for a day or so. Yawnsville.

I've switched the music in all the posts since and including Pegged to the very sparkly new Mediafire hosty thingy though, which seems to be working well enough for Young Michael, so I hope your experience of it here will be satisfactory.

Meanwhile here's a little amuse bouche (also via Mediafire) to tide you over for 24 hours...

Pinch, punch, first of the month, etc.

Gorillaz - 'November Has Come' (2005)

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


'When a relationship dies do we ever really give up the ghost, or are we forever haunted by the spirits of relationships past?' (Sex And The City)

Love And Rockets - 'Haunted When The Minutes Drag' (1985)
Kristin Hersh - 'Your Ghost' (1994)
Trembling Blue Stars - 'The Ghost Of An Unkissed Kiss' (2001)

(bah whizzes to witches and pumpkins x).

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Coming Of Samhain

Ah yes, Samhain (pronounced sow-inn) - the ancient Celtic festival of the taking in of the harvest and the preparation for the dark time; the last marker of summer's end and the onset of winter; the time when we pay our respects to those who have come before us, for although we are living and they are dead, the line that divides us is fine and the fabric of the world is weak.

Another perfectly decent pagan festival relating to our position as people on the Earth and in Time, co-opted first by those pesky Christians and then by those who build the great cathedrals to the god of shopping; and ye shall know him as the Lord Walmart and ye shall bow at his cash-till and weep...

Nick Drake - 'Harvest Breed' (1972)
Neil Young - 'Harvest Moon' (MTV Unplugged version) (1993)

OK, relax. We'll do some ghosty posts tomorrow.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

A Post For My Dad

It's my Dad's birthday today. He is an incredible 84 years old (I know! - they had me late).
One day I'll tell you a whole bunch of stories about my Dad; how he's a war hero (no really - twice!) - all that.

Tonight though I just wanted to post something for him. Not that he reads blogs, or knows I have one. Or knows what one is. Or has a computer. Or knows how to turn a computer on, frankly....


My Dad plays music constantly. He walks into a room - usually on returning from a pub - and he turns music on. I do the same. If some music's on, then the room's alive. It's home. You put the lights on afterwards; that's a secondary consideration.

And I was thinking 'What music would Dad put on the blog on his birthday?' and struggled a little because for Dad (unlike for me) music is a kind of background thing. Soothing, warm, nice - but NOT SOMETHING YOU'D WRITE STUFF ABOUT.

But I think this man has never been 'background' to him. I think that if such things figured in his world, this man would be his All Time Favourite Artist. Certainly, Dad introduced him to me, when I was about four years old. And I love him very much too.

And so....happy birthday DavyH senior. You daft old git.

Nat 'King' Cole - 'Unforgettable' (1951)

Friday, October 26, 2007

Queeny Strop

I've read more than a couple of posts lately - and I honestly can't remember where, such was the trauma I experienced - that have seriously argued the David Gray cover of this is superior to the original. This seems to me to be somewhat analogous to suggesting that Jordan could do 'You Don't Have To Say You Love Me' better than Dusty (oh christ, I hope this doesn't get the bloody idea out there), Jack Vettriano paints nicer than Goya and 'Hamlet' could well benefit from a rewrite by Dan Brown.

Young people, watch my sad old chapped lips: Marc Almond is a GENIUS DIVA; David Gray is a noddy-headed Van Morrison-lite for Mail On Sunday readers.

Sort yourselves out.

Soft Cell - 'Say Hello, Wave Goodbye' (1982)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

You Can Call Her Bettye

I'm posting on the fly this week as my girlies are home for the half term holidays and our days are jamborees of museums, parks, pizzas and cinema trips; or at least they would be if we could get our sorry selves out of bed in the morning (it's dark).

But I certainly can't let the birthday of Bettye Swann go by unannounced; she's been one of my all-time fave soul singers ever since I heard her cover of Aaron Neville's 'Tell It Like It Is' on an old Stateside compilation and tracked down more of her stuff in the dear old lost and much lamented record stores of Camden Town.

This anthology came out a couple of years back and is an absolute corker if you like your soul Southern and your singing effortlessly warm and pure. I heartily commend it to you - and wish the former Ms Betty Jean Champion many happy returns of the day. She's special.

Now, about those tickets for 'Ratatouille'...

Bettye Swann- 'Tell It Like It Is' (1968)
Bettye Swann - 'Cover Me' (1969)
Bettye Swann - 'Don't You Ever Get Tired (Of Hurting Me)' (1969)

[Whatever became of Bettye Swann? Read Tim Tooher's CD sleeve notes here]

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


I've seen it all now.

According to the BBC you can build your own Sputnik with an old biscuit tin, a Tomy baby monitor, four large batteries and a balloon.

What the f- ?

XTC - 'Another Satellite' (1986)

Friday, October 19, 2007

Premier League

The lines are closed and the votes have been counted. You plumped by a clear margin for the 'Tarty 80s Classic' - and I was so hoping you would...

The Human League - 'Hard Times' (1982)

Originally the B side to the 'Love Action' single, this is the Martin Rushent remix from the League Unlimited Orchestra's 'Love And Dancing' mini LP and it is quite glorious - as fine a slice of electronic pop as you're ever likely to hear.

Back in the day, our school ran an innovative Friday night club for 2nd and 3rd formers called, radically enough, '2-3 Club'. It was very much a club of two halves: the first part of the evening occupied with plenary activities run by volunteer 6th formers - photography club, Scalextric club, war games club, football club; the second part of the evening a disco.

When we were little kids we attended, and when we were big kids we got to help run things - and me and another guy did the disco every week (there had to be two of us because there was only one turntable and someone had to change the records while someone else talked in the gaps. Classy.)

My co-DJ had the 12" single of 'Hard Times/Love Action' which segues both tracks into an inspired electroboogie whole, and it used to go down a storm. Usefully, it was also long enough to allow the DJs a toilet break....

Tragically, that 12" mix is unavailable on the League's recently issued compilation of remixes and 'rarities'. Aren't record companies rubbish?

Anyhoo, why not turn down the lights in the front room tonight and dance like Joanne and Susanne? You'll feel better about everything, I promise.

Your Vote Counts!

Don't forget to vote in The Ghost Of Electricity Friday Post Poll. There's still time to influence the result. Lines close at about 3pm UK time and the winner will be revealed shortly afterwards. Catch you later!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Swedes In Season

It's Swedish indie-pop a gogo on the interwebby right now. What are they putting in the water over there and can we please have some too? Only this week thanks to Colin I have made friends with the delightful Club 8, and a nice little Scandinavian playlist has been building on my compuder for quite some time now (hello Hello Saferide in particular).

I first heard this chap's 'A Sweet Summer's Night On Hammer Hill' the year before last and had the urge to press it on everyone I knew for a number of months thereafter.

This one has another great title, sparkly strings and more than a little Edwyn about it, all of which are Very Good Things in my book.

Jens Lekman - 'The Opposite Of Hallelujah' (2007)

I'm really paddling in the shallow waters of this music, nervily unsure as to where to take the plunge, so helpful advice from some of you more experienced swimmers out there would be eminently groovy.

[Jens' website here]

Monday, October 15, 2007

Thoro In The Boros

Your Monday heartstarter for this week - the Beasties' unexpectedly affecting and, best of all, pointedly inclusive celebration of their home city, from the album 'To The 5 Boroughs'.

It's a long way from the frat brat schtick of 'No Sleep Till Brooklyn' - and all the better for it.

Failed to chart as a single in the US though, oddly...

The Beastie Boys - 'An Open Letter To NYC' (2004)

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Et Pour Le Grand-Duché de Luxembourg...

Mais oui - it's the lovely Vicky Leandros.

Someone for whom I know a few of you still carry une petite torche...

This was her first Eurovision entry for Luxembourg, in 1967 - the year Sandie Shaw won for the UK with 'Puppet On A String'.

Vicky came 4th; but as I'm sure even Sandie would agree, this was the better song - and it went on to be a huge international hit, and one of the most covered Eurovision songs of all time. So there.

Do you like Vicky in that dress? I do. But I may have to have a little lie down now, for a while....

Vicky Leandros - 'L'Amour Est Bleu' (1967)

Friday, October 12, 2007

Friday Soul Show

If you had been unlucky enough to be in St. George's Hospital, Tooting in the early 1990s, and too confused or impaired to find a proper radio station on your bedside dial, you may have stumbled upon the Friday Soul Show on Hospital Radio Nine, presented, after a fashion, by this blogger.

As you struggled in vain to alert the duty nurse to your distress, these are some of the things you may have heard....

Wilson Pickett - 'Hey Jude' (1969)
Sam & Dave - 'Soul Man' (1967)
Bobby Bland - 'Ain't No Love In The Heart Of The City' (1974)

(Whilst I packed my records away at the end of the show, the guy who did the hour after me arrived. He was a quiet, beardy man in his forties called Roger Wallace and he presented the 'album track show'. Nice.)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Some good news on the iconic ancient game front though. On my recent trip to visit the Aged Ps in not-so-sunny Devon I did manage to rescue my original 70s copy of the seminal code-breaking game 'Mastermind' from the toy cupboard in the spare room before my Dad took it to the charity shop as he has done (quite rightly) with everything else from this period of my childhood.

You will recall that this classic from Invicta Plastics, Oadby, Leics (Game Of The Year 1973!) involved attemping to deduce via structured logical thought (or guessing) your opponent's combination of coloured pegs in as few tries as possible whilst he 'marked' you with little white and black pegs.

Me and my friend Brian were both quite good at it, having passed many a rainy afternoon playing it.

And there are a lot of rainy afternoons in the winter in Devon, I can tell you.

Completist that I am, I also had the 'pocket' and 'word' variants: no doubt these are going for a fortune on ebay right now. Or not.

Anyway, in what I considered a marvellous generation-spanning moment last week I introduced the game to my eldest daughter, who is 8, and set her a devilishly tricky code to crack. She got it in four moves. Harrumph.

Remember this?

Furniture - 'Brilliant Mind' (1986)

[Read about the 30 years-on reunion of 'Mastermind' 'cover stars' Bill Woodward and Cecilia Fung here. No, really]