Archive for August, 2006
Yesterday was one of those days. Maybe I got out of bed on the wrong side. Maybe other people did too.
You know how in the mornings, you don’t really know what mood you’re in until you come into contact with other people? This is more obvious in my life, being quite solitary as it is. I’m sure if you live with other people you have the chance to find out your mood fairly early and possibly correct it over the breakfast table.
Anyway, I woke up at 11.15am, and had to get a move on, as I needed to go to the vet with Billy because he needed an injection to stop a cut on his neck getting infected. They close at noon on Wednesdays.
So I scurry around getting ready, leave my flat, say hello to a neighbour on the stairs, and get to the front door of the building.
I open the door, and there are three people stood at the entrance. One has his back to me, and is blocking my exit.
I repeat it, but with more urgency (and, I imagine, frustration) in my voice. I walk past them, and as I got a few feet away, they make ‘oooh’ noises (just like Vic Reeves with the handbag in Shooting Stars). From nowhere, my temper rockets. I turn ’round and start ranting at them in English.
Rant over, finger given, I begin walking away again. Then one says something in a snidey voice and they all laugh; the rage floods back, and I return to the scene.
They all look posh; you know that ‘look’ that some well-off upper class people have (not all of them, I must add, just some), that confidence in the eyes and the slight sneer of the mouth gained from years of being assured that they are better than the other people – well, they looked like that; floppy haircuts, good skin, fancy sweaters with shirt collars, etc. Odd really, they looked English even though they were German.
So I’m back there ranting again, using the basest parts of my vocabulary on them. Two of them were wearing Barbour-green knee-length trousers and similarly coloured knee-length socks. My rant finishes with “… and your stupid fucking trousers.” I start to leave again, and one says, “Hey, are you intolerant?”
“Are you intolerant?”
A mixture of more bad language and reasoned argument comes out of my mouth; basically explaining that there’s a different between intolerance and making fun of someone’s stupid trousers. A final flourish of F-words, and I depart for the veterinary surgery, muttering under my breath like a crazy person.
Of course, this is how I view the exchanges. Maybe they saw it differently. Maybe, in a bar later that night with their fellow braying poshos, the story was thus: Jesus, this is funny; we were hanging outside this building, and this scruffy beardo weirdo comes out, and just starts going mental at us.
Later in the day I ordered a pizza. The guy was 40 minutes late. He offered no apology for his tardiness. He didn’t say hello or, indeed, anything as he approached my front door. And, most horrifically, he had that über-tan that made his skin the colour of cigarette filters. As you’re probably well aware from previous rants about the service industry in Berlin, I wasn’t particularly shocked, rather slightly saddened that this fellow who, admittedly, has a shitty job doesn’t at least make a tiny half-hearted effort to behave like a human. It continues: rather than removing the pizza from his insulated satchel, he just opens the flap and thrusts it forward to me, so I should remove the pizza myself.
I paid and remained steely strong to my principle of not tipping bad service, even though that principle usually wilts when faced with the moment of truth. His orange head scowled as I stood there, hand extends waiting to receive my change, which, in his tiny retaliation, came to me slowly and as assortment of five euros-worth of 50 and 20 cent coins. Little did he know that that was good for me, as I’ve got a couple of bags of laundry to do today, and need as much change as possible for the machines.
I do wonder though, if – like the monkeys and the typewriters and Shakespeare – if one day, everyone in the world might be in a bad mood at the same time. All the teachers, students, postmen, bus drivers, office workers, CEOs, policemen, sailors, and presidents of the world; all getting out of bed feeling grumpy. What kind of day would that be?
Back in February, I embarked on an ambitious plan: to read all the books that I’d begun but not finished. This was, and is, a big problem of mine. I tend to get distracted by something else, and suddenly the book I was reading is gathering dust, half or quarter finished, buried under a pile of Mojo or Esquire magazines in the bathroom.
I got off to a good start. (A full size version of the above chart is here. Brown equals partially-read books, orange equals books I’ve bought this year which only make the task harder.) But then I went to New York in April. I read a couple of books while I was there, then I bought a Sony PSP. Any doubts I had that video games retard a child’s development have been banished now that I’ve seen how they retard my development.
Some good news, though: I’ve nearly finished one of those books, so maybe a final spurt towards the end of the year is on the cards.
This, rather neatly, ties in with something I discovered at the weekend. After listening to The Onion’s President’s Weekly Radio Address, I had a look around on the Internet to find out if there was any information on Bush’s real reading habits.
I found out that he apparently has read 60 books this year. Sixty. Leaving aside the obvious jokes, that’s virtually a book every four days. How in the hell does someone read that much when they have one of the world’s most important, and one would assume, busy jobs? What does ‘reading a book’ constitute for this chap? Reading the blurb on the back? Getting someone to read it and summarise it into two sides of A4? Listening to the audio books is a possibility, I guess. (I’ve often wondered if that should be considered reading? It feels like cheating, but really, it’s kinda the same; just a different voice that your brain hears.)
And look at the books on his list. I could not be more certain that he is not reading Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women by Geraldine Brooks. That, sir, is bullshit. The whole list looks like it was put together by some White House PR drone, trying to find the perfect mix of clever-and-presidential and man-of-the-people.
But anyway, 60 books, if true, is pretty impressive. Especially if, like it says in the Orlando Sentinel, it’s 60 books “this summer.” My doubts about the sixty books, though, are made stronger: three of the books on his 2006 summer reading list were on his list in 2005. It seems that me and the president both start books we don’t finish.
I thought I’d do some Minipops today to snap me out of my funk.
So I concentrated on people I like: baseball players.
(How very uninteresting for the non-North Americans/non-baseball fans reading this, huh?)
Anyway, there’s ten of them. Five from the AL, five from the NL. There they are, above these words.
Maybe you fancy guessing who they are. Maybe not.
If you wanna know the answers, you can find them here.
I’d hoped that all that music stuff last week would kick-start me into writing more and doing more stuff for FFF. It’s not really happened. I seem to be on a mental vacation. Anything that could possibly distract me is distracting me: DVDs (Munich, Election, Training Day, seasons one and two of Homocide: Life On The Street); PSP games (MLB 06: The Show [I’m playing, of course, as the Yankees and doing rather well, .680 for the season so far] and Miami Vice [I know, I know; I shouldnt’ be buying film tie-in games, but the temptation to sneak around and shoot people was too great]); live baseball on mlb.com (a five game sweep of the Red Sox… perfect!); walking Billy around different parks for a bit of variety; or just lying in the bath for hours on end, not really relaxing, just lying there with a fairground at work inside my head.
But I did enjoy lying at the ‘wrong’ end of the bath. Mine is one of those that’s like a miniature swimming pool, where it’s a bit shallower at one end so your back has some nice support (even so, baths are rarely a really comfortable thing to be in, are they?). And, as usual, I over-filled the bath with hot water, so had to put in a load of cold water, which meant way too much water overall. So as I lay down with my head resting on the turning dial that opens and shuts the plug, the water was seeping out of the overflow which is directly behind the dial. It sounded like the water was flowing out of my brain. Which couldn’t be further from the truth, cos over the past couple of weeks I’ve had water getting into my ears and blocking them up.
But, without wishing to be coarse, there are still very few pleasures in life as giggle-inducing as breaking wind in the bath. Honestly, the day I stop laughing at that is the day I should be carted of to a retirement home and left to rot in front of daytime telly. It’s just so much fun: the submarine noise and the tickle of the bubbles on the thighs and the pleasant popping of the bubbles when they reach the surface.
Blah blah blah…
Anyway, perhaps and maybe I should embrace my brain forcing me to stop thinking, let it re-charge itself a little.
(Oh, and a final quick note: if the person who recognised Billy and me on the street yesterday and said hello is reading this, I apologise for not being in any way close to human in my replies; I was surprised, a little embarrassed, and my mind was in the clouds. Sorry.)
Seeing as though I’ve spent the week writing about music, I thought it might be time to listen to some. So I’ve made you a tape. Well, an mp3. It’s 46 minutes and 53MB. I’ve given it the really fancy name,
August Mix. The word ‘mix,’ of course, is used in the loosest possible way: the songs collide more than anything.
This is what’s on it:
‘Breezin” George Benson
Just a tiny snippet of the intro cos it’s pretty.
‘A Nanny in Manhattan’ Lilys
An ace song, from an ace album, that wasn’t ruined by being on a Levi’s advert in, oooh, 1997, I think.
‘Communication Breakdown’ Roy Orbison
Not a Led Zep cover, just a superb song.
‘Hear the Air’ Mo Ho Bish O Pi
A Welsh band from my 3mv days. Dunno what the rest of their music sounds like, but this one’s a belter.
‘What a Fool Believes’ The Doobie Brothers
One of the best songs ever recorded.
‘It’s Too Late’ Otis Redding
One of the songs that Kanyé sampled on his last album.
‘Sombre Hombre’ Tim ‘Love’ Lee
A man with wonderful facial hair, and a very nice chap to boot.
‘Eclipse’ The Beta Band
Off the brilliant Hot Shots II album, which you really should buy.
‘Different Drum’ Michael Nesmith
The bloke with the green hat out of the Monkees, the inventor of MTV, and creator of some fine country records in the seventies.
‘Chinese Children’ Devendra Banhart
I like the lyrics.
‘Convoy’ CW McCall
You wanna put that microbus in behind the suicide jockey?
‘Soluble in Air’ Mystery Jets
My favourite song off an album I’m obsessing on at the moment.
‘Here I Go Again’ Whitesnake
C’mon, you know you love it, really.
I’ll leave the mp3 online for about a week, so if you want it, grab it soon.
And if you like it, maybe I’ll do a September mix.
While the charts continued to be fairly good representations of what was popular, the introduction of multiple formats and the massive airplay that records received pre-release began to make the top 40 less important as a barometer of the public’s taste. More, what was number one was a barometer of how well record companies were promoting their wares. Sad, really. More and more records began going in straight at number one (a feat that back in my early days of buying records was very rare indeed), which led to a less vibrant chart. No records going up, just new entries and records going down. Never again, I fear, will we see something as joyful as watching Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s ‘Relax’ slipping down the charts, then coming all the way back up again to number two, snuggled neatly behind ‘Two Tribes’ at the top.
Oh, and a quick note: there’s not many photos this time cos my camera broke yesterday. Boo.
So anyway, 1992: I bought none of the chart toppers, although an honourable mention should go to Right Said Fred’s ‘Deeply Dippy,’ as I did buy their album a couple of months later after another track had convinced me that it must be a decent album cos there’s already four singles I like.
Take That ‘Babe’
Aaaah, little Mark Owen gets to do the lead vocals on a song, and look cute in the video. One of the loudest noises I’ve ever heard was walking past the crowd outside Assembly Rooms in Derby shortly before the doors were opened to allow in thousands of Take That fans.
Another barron year. However, I do wish I’d bought two of the number ones: ‘Saturday Night’ by Whigfield, and ‘Stay Another Day’ by East 17. Both of which being perfectly poppy. I wonder what Whigfield is doing now. I hope it’s something good.
Take That ‘Back For Good’
The one which even those who disliked boy bands grudgingly admitted to liking. One of the best songs of the decade. Fact.
Oasis ‘Some Might Say’
Not my favourite Oasis song, but not bad either. But, yet again, an awful sleeve. Oasis have never ever had a good record sleeve. You’d think that the law of averages would have given them at least one sleeve that was better than okay; but no. Brian Cannon, the designer of this and many others, is without doubt the worst graphic designer in the world ever.
Blur ‘Country House’
When the self-important Blur vs. Oasis thing happened, I fell on the side of Blur. And still do. A far better band. Rather like a dull World Cup or Champions League final, though, both bands released pretty poor parodies of their work when they went head to head. By this time of my life I was working in a record shop (Radio City in Lincoln – no longer around, sadly) and sales for us were virtually neck and neck. Though, I guess, the two CD single versions of ‘Country House’ was the thing that put it at the top.
Michael Jackson ‘Earth Song’
I seem to remember there was quite a jaunty dance mix on the CD single which is probably what lead me to get this. By this time, though, records didn’t cost very much for me what with working a shop that sold them. No excuse really, it’s still a pretty shoddy song.
Oasis ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’
This one always reminds me of the last scene of a 1996 BBC drama Our Friends in the North. It was a superb series about the lives of four friends from Newcastle that began with how they were in the sixties and finished with the present day. It’s on DVD, and worth a look if your video shop’s got it.
We all loved this one, didn’t we? Scary-looking bloke doing some shouting and some big noisy noises. Brilliant.
Gina G ‘Ooh Aah… Just A Little Bit’
The UK’s entry for that year’s Eurovision Song Contest. A strange event, that. I imagine it must seem even stranger for the non-Europeans who see it. I have a feeling that the UK never wins, even with a great romping pop song like this (it came eighth), because all the other countries want to put us in our place what with us being so proud of our pop music heritage.
Chemical Brothers ‘Setting Sun’
I really like the Chemical Brothers. They’ve been fairly consistently good for quite a while now, and good live too. but their insistence on using famous singers often seems like an Achilles heel. ‘The Golden Path’ being the only one I can think of that is truly one of their best songs. This song, though, isn’t; and I imagine only got to number one cos Oasis fans bought it.
Didn’t I just buy this exact same record a few months ago?
Spice Girls ‘2 Become 1′
The last number one I got as a record shop employee, going, as I was, to London to start a new job after Christmas. There was a lovely version of this song on the promo which just had the singing and a string arrangement, I think, by Craig Armstrong.
One of their best songs, and one that completely reminds me of living in my first flat in Forest Hill, London. I lived above a dance studio. I whole-heartedly recommend that you NEVER live above a dance studio. The thundering of a bunch of schoolgirls trying to do tap dancing on a Saturday morning is truly horrible. It was a very cold flat, too; so cold at times that my CD player kept feeling ill and skipping. When I listen to this song now, I still expect the intro to happen three or four times before it begins to play properly.
Chemical Brothers ‘Block Rockin’ Beats’
So, I’m in London now, working for a record distribution company called 3mv. This meant never ever paying for records anymore. Kid/sweetshop. Even records that we didn’t distribute were free, as I could just call one of the sales reps and he’d get it for me from one of the shops he visited. It became a great way to hoard records; acquiring singles I’d normally not bother with and just wait for the album. And what a great album Dig your Own Hole was, especially ‘It Doesn’t Matter,’ their most teeth-grindingly, getting-sweaty, going-mental-in-a-dark-room song.
Olive ‘You’re Not Alone’
A song I’d bought the previous year that, as is the way with some dancey records, ended up being number one ages later. It sounds completely of its time, the synthy noises all so very mid-nineties, but it’s still a pretty song.
Oasis ‘D’you Know What I Mean?’
I’ll tell you a story, a little secret about the music industry. You know those gold discs they make when records sell a bunch of copies? They’re a farce. I got one of them for this single (and I’ve resisted eBaying it, oddly) before it was released. It stated on the little plaque that it was presented to me (and a couple of hundred other music industry drones) in recognition of sales of, I think, 300,000, which quite clearly it hadn’t sold at theat point. They may well have manufactured that many, and they did sell that amount eventually, but still: it’s a lie.
All Saints ‘Never Ever’
Has there ever been a sexier group than All Saints? I can’t really think of any. Melanie was my favourite; I’m a sucker for a good strong nose. And this song is delicious. The very cute spoken intro over the gospely backing vocals and organ melts me every time.
Oasis ‘All Around The World’
Created, I assume, in a laboratory by scientists employed by Noel Gallagher to make a hit Oasis song that sounded as Oasisy as possible. A bit of ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger,’ a bit of ‘Whatever,’ and can you make Liam go “sheeeee-ine,” please. Ker-ching! A number one single.
Cornershop ‘Brimful of Asha’
little band that you’d never ever think would have a top 40 hit end up having a number one! How did that happen?
Run DMC vs Jason Nevins ‘It’s Like That’
If I never hear this again it’ll be too soon.
Fatboy Slim ‘Praise You’
One of the joys of working for 3mv was the (admitted very small) part one plays in an artist being a success. I was really really happy that Fatboy Slim was finally a big star. Trying my best to flog his early records when I worked at Radio City, then getting to hear the new songs before they were released working at 3mv was ace. Normally, I’d be sick of an over-played song like this, but I still enjoy it.
ATB ‘9PM (Till I Come)’
Another 3mv distributed number one. It was good to be there when successful things were happening. Mainly, though, because we got decent bonuses when records got to number one.
2000 – 2006
I left 3mv in the summer of 2000, as the slight success of Flip Flop Flyin’ had started to get me a little bit of freelance work. In one of the few moments of my life where I’ve been brave, I quit my job, went freelance, then accepted a job in Berlin. Thus, I had to buy records again. In a shop. God! nightmare! Actually, it wasn’t a nightmare. By the end of my time at 3mv, music had become completely my job, and even records I liked I hardly listened to due to the never ending amount of new stuff that got piled up next to my hi-fi.
2000 had some good number ones, but it bloody well should’ve, considering there were 42 of the buggers. Didn’t buy any, though; I was turning my back on the single and dedicating my music money to albums. Notable number ones this year, though: ‘Pure Shores’ and ‘Black Coffee’ by All Saints, ‘Spinning Around’ by Kylie, and ‘Music’ by Madonna.
And 2001 only had a couple of good number ones (‘Don’t Stop Movin” by S Club 7 and ‘Another Chance’ by Roger Sanchez) until…
Kylie Minogue ‘Can’t Get You Out Of My Head’
So, this is the only UK number one I’ve bought in the 21st century. And as close to perfect as a pop song can get really. I’ve not read that Paul Morley book yet (still sat on my shelf gathering dust) but I believe he goes into some depth about why this song is so great. I don’t have his intellectual brain, so all I can say is it bounces and tingles and fizzes in my brain, and probably will do for the rest of my life.
So that’s it. A bunch of crap songs, the usual supsects who always have number ones doing so, and a handful of belters later, and it’s 2006, and Shakira’s number one. Mmmm, Shakira…
There are few things more boring in life than hearing some Beach Boys fan bang on about how brilliant Pet Sounds is. I’m very very guilty of being that boring person; in the corner of the room, droning on about how Brian Wilson blah blah blah… there doesn’t even need to be anyone there for me to talk to.
The pedestal that the album is put upon shouldn’t take away from the magic of the album itself, though. Who gives a toss if a lot of music journalists think it’s the best record ever? It’s what you think that matters for you, it’s what I think that matters for me. If you think Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory is the best album ever, then it is (you’d be very very wrong about that of course, you demented freak).
My point? I have none, other than suggesting that you may be interested to listen to this mp3 I cobbled together of all the songs on Pet Sounds playing at the same time. It still sounds quite good, I reckon.
The relevence of the hit parade began to dim a bit in my mid to late teens. Partly due to the increase in pocket money and a paper round meaning I could now afford more albums; and partly becuase I was getting into ‘proper’ music: Bruce Springsteen, U2, Simple Minds, and the mighty Dire Straits. But pop put up a fight. As we shall see…
Dead Or Alive ‘You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)’
My mate Ben was well into Dead Or Alive, even before they began having hits. His parents were fairly well off, and lived in an extremely large house. We used to play croquet in his garden. Only now, though, do I realise how rich his parents must’ve been. Like, I guess, a lot of people, my concept of cost when I was younger was non-existent. If I go on holiday now, I pay for myself and myself alone. When my family went on holiday, my mum and dad were paying for four people and two or three dogs to go on holiday. That must cost a fortune. Ditto buying, decorating and furnishing a house and keeping it running.
Aaaanyway, this was the first massive hit produced by Stock Aitken and Waterman. There’d been a couple of top ten hits before (Divine and Hazell Dean, if I remember correctly), but this was the one where the template clicked with the public, and became the springboard for a fairly solid domination of the charts for the next five or so years. Amazing, really, that they managed to turn people who really looked quite normal (Sonia, Big Fun, Reynolds Girls, Rick Astley) into pop stars. And, it’s often overlooked, made some fucking superb records as well as the stinkers people tend to focus on. This record was, and still is, superb.
Sister Sledge ‘Frankie’
I can’t for the life of me think why it is that I bought this record. It’s so very sickly sweet. What was I, a fourteen year old boy, doing buying this record? I have no idea.
David Bowie & Mick Jagger ‘Dancing In The Street’
I guess I was swept up in the whole Live Aid thing when I bought this piece of shit. This is the sort of record that happens when you get two massive egos together in a room with mirrors on the table as well as the walls.
Wham! ‘The Edge of Heaven’
I still think it’s a bit of a shame that ‘Last Christmas’ was released at the same time as the Band Aid record. Wham!’s song was by far the superior of the two, but, of course, it didn’t have a chance of getting beyond number two. Their next record, ‘I’m Your Man,’ was a number one in ’85, but I wasn’t really a fan of that. And this one; well, not really a huge fan either. I suppose I bought it simply because it was their last single.
The Communards ‘Don’t Leave Me This Way’
A bloke that sings all high like a girl, and a girl that sings all low down like a boy. Crazy.
The Housemartins ‘Caravan of Love’
The first of three number ones featuring Norman Cook that I’ve bought. The Housemartins were quite important in my musical development. I’d not really got into indie music; The Smiths were a band I’d bought the odd single by, but they never affected me that much until the Strangeways, Here We Come album which opened the gates for me, and I went back and explored their earlier stuff. But, The Housemartins were a nice poppy introduction to that type of music. This wasn’t one of their best songs, I don’t think, but it’s obvious why it was their biggest hit.
M/A/R/R/S ‘Pump Up The Volume’
There’s something fun about this collaboration between two 4AD bands and a couple of DJs taking over from Rick Astley at number one, and being followed by the Bee Gees. And it was an introduction for me to the delights of housey music, something that became fairly dominant in my listening a few years later.
The Timelords ‘Doctorin’ The Tardis’
The Timelords, as we all know, were The KLF in disguise. Should you like the ideas behind The KLF, may I suggest Bill Drummond’s excellent books, 45 and How To Be An Artist. Both are lovely pieces of work, and the latter forever found a place in my heart as it spends a few lines talking about the beauty of the Lincolnshire skies, one of the main things I miss about my home.
Bought simply because that’s what I did when U2 released records back then. And, being a fan, I liked Rattle and Hum. These days, though, aside from ‘All I Want Is You,’ there’s no song on that album that I ever really need to hear again.
The first year since I begun buying music that I didn’t buy a chart-topper. By this time, though, I was beginning the best couple of years of my life at art college and buying Happy Mondays records. There were a few good number ones by Kylie Minogue, Soul II Soul, and Black Box; but mainly it was a toss year at the top. Three number ones by Jive Bunny, a couple of turgid charity singalongs, and some Jason Donovan, too.
Kylie Minogue ‘Tears On My Pillow’
Aaaaah, Kylie. There are few things in life as joyous as Kylie’s Stock Aitken and Waterman years. This wasn’t the best song of that era (‘Wouldn’t Change A Thing’ and ‘Better The Devil You Know’ are the best, I’d say). I’ve had a crush on Kylie now for nearly twenty years. I really do think it’s about time she reciprocated, it’s only fair. She could invite me to live with her in Sydney. I could give her some tips on her dance routines, she could help me do some Minipops. It’d be wonderful.
Beats International ‘Dub Be Good To Me’
I’d become a DJ by this point in my life. A friend and I blagged a job at Ritzy nightclub in Lincoln, doing a rival student night to the main one in town, at a club called Vienna. Like the shop Woolworth, nobody ever called it Vienna, it was Vienna’s. Anyway, we did a few of these Ritzy nights, and it was a disaster. By our third or fourth night, we just closed early as there were so few people there. Luckily for us, though, the DJ at Vienna’s was leaving a couple of weeks later. So fresh from defeat at Ritzy, we lucked into the vacant slot at Vienna’s. Which was a lot of fun, exceedingly successful, and it meant I no longer had to work in the warehouse at a supermarket. I don’t think we played this record much, though.
EnglandNewOrder ‘World in Motion’
But, we did play this one a lot. When England played Belgium in the World Cup, Leigh (my co-DJ) and I really wanted to watch the game, but we had to play records instead. The match was on the big bank of TVs in the club, though, so for the first hour, we decided to play nothing but instrumental tracks, so we could listen to the commentary at the same time. Thankfully, most of the people who’d come to the club were interested in the game too. And when David Platt scored in the last minute of extra time, the place went barmy. Cue ‘World in Motion’ and one of the best nights we ever did at Vienna’s.
Vanilla Ice ‘Ice Ice Baby’
Word to your mother.
The KLF ‘3AM Eternal’
A great song with many versions. My favourite being the ‘3AM Eternal (Blue Danube Orbital)’ one. Around this time there was virtually no night of the week when I didn’t listen to their Chill Out album, and I think we can all read between the lines there, eh?
The Clash ‘Should I Stay Or Should I Go’
Never a fan. This song’s okay, though. I can just about handle ‘Rock The Casbah’ too. The rest – pah! rubbish!
U2 ‘The Fly’
I was very much losing interest in U2 by this time. Even though Achtung Baby was a good album, my taste in music had moved on, and U2 were a casualty. Nowadays, though, I enjoy that album quite a lot.
End of part three. Last night I went to see The Twilight Singers live. They did a version of the Bruce Springsteen song, ‘I’m On Fire’ which was a treat, and Mark Lanegan was singing with them too. How’s about that for value for money? Anyway, tomorrow is the fourth and final part of this number one stuff, 1992 to 2006.
All the UK number ones I bought, part two: 1984.
I guess everyone has a year where music was utterly great for them. A year that tips the balance from something you really like to something that you realise will be an obsession for the rest of your life. 1984 was that year for me. Every coin I had was spent on records (and, really, what else could I spend my money on? Music was the only thing). I bought all but two of the number one hits that year. The two I didn’t buy: Lionel Richie’s ‘Hello’ and Jim Diamond’s ‘I Should Have Known Better.’
These are the number ones I did buy:
Paul McCartney ‘Pipes of Peace’
A genuinely lovely record, I think. And, to this date, the last number one Paul McCartney has had. And a good history lesson in the video; without having seen that, I don’t think I’d ever have known about the Christmas truce in 1914, which, it seeems to me, must’ve been a great moment for all those involved.
Frankie Goes To Hollywood ‘Relax’
It’s about sex!? Huh? Really? What an innocent young boy I was. And, of course, it was banned by BBC Radio One and Top of the Pops. How funny it was to watch that show when ‘Relax’ was at the top of the charts, knowing the climax of the top 40 rundown would be rather limp (just a photo of the band, I seem to remember).
Nena ’99 Red Balloons’
After I’d moved to Berlin, a large majority of my British friends asked me, do all German girls have hairy armpits? This misconception is one I blame on Nena. When she appeared on Top of the Pops, it was THE topic of discussion at school the next day: she’s quite sexy, but, did you see her armpits!?
Duran Duran ‘The Reflex’
My next door neighbour Mike and I used to hang out a lot. His father was a mildy eccentric chap: the house was full of books, on shelves, table tops, piles on the floor; he had an air rifle; and a double tape deck, the first I’d ever seen. Mike and I would spend many an evening after dinner ‘breakdancing.’ This, I’m sad to say, tended to mean spinning around balanced on one knee, then flipping onto our backs to try and keep the spin going for a bit. We’d also do our own remixes with his spacey hi-fi. We once made a version of ‘The Reflex’ that lasted about ten minutes. God knows how long it took us to make, but most of it was the intro extended for several minutes: Th-th-th-th-th-th-th-th-the re-re-re-re-re-re- fl-fl-fl- th-th-th-th- re-re-re- fl-fl-fl-fl-flex!
Wham! ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go Go’
Girl’s music, but I really liked Wham!, and to a certain extend, I still do have an interest in what George Michael is up to, musically. It’s always kind of a shame when musicians decide they want to be taken seriously, as it usually means that melodies are put on the backburner, if not thrown out all together.
Frankie Goes To Hollywood ‘Two Tribes’
What a record! The sense of something big happening in a song has never, for me, been as great as the intro of this record. At thirteen, it wasn’t easy for me to grasp the subtleties of world affairs; but this record left me in no doubt, the Americans and Russians wanted to duff each other up. And, of course, that’s what happened in the video. It’s good that you can find this stuff on YouTube: I distinctly remember staying up way past my family’s bedtime to watch this.
George Michael ‘Careless Whisper’
If my memory serves me right, this record came out when we were on a family camping holiday in Somerset. There was another family from Essex next to us, and they had a daughter the same age as me. She was called Elaine. I thought she was super. Nothing came of it, of course: I was thirteen and, God, my parents were there…
That holiday was also the first time I noticed a strange odour coming from my underarm area. Up until then, a plume of talcum powder after a bath was the only personal hygiene I’d needed; but, that summer in south west England introduced me to roll-on deodorant. That, and the mindblowing somersaults in my chest caused by wanting to kiss a girl from Romford.
Stevie Wonder ‘I Just Called To Say I Love You’
I have no defence. It’s soppy as hell, but underneath it all, I still think it’s a lovely lovely song. And I’m a sucker for a key change. Any song with a key change endears itself to me no end, even though it’s quite a cheesy trick, (and I’m aware I’m being tricked, but I can’t help it).
I was very impressed by the sleeve of this single. Sadly, I can’t find this record, so I can’t do a photo. But it was just a picture of George and Andrew. That’s fame, innit? Just a photograph, no title, no band name.
Chaka Khan ‘I Feel For You’
A Prince song, a Stevie Wonder harmonica, and a Melle Mel rap. Wonderful. Then an appearance on Top of the Pops wearing very tight leggings, which seemed to earn Chaka the nickname ‘Thunderthighs.’ I think someone was flattering her with the drawing on the sleeve.
Frankie Goes To Hollywood ‘The Power Of Love’
Back when consecutive number ones were quite a rarity, Frankie had three in one year. Their first three singles, too. Not since Gerry and the Pacemakers… Of course, these days, any old tosser can have three number ones if they’ve been on some dumb TV show. But, I tell you, son, back in my day, before electricity, you had to be king of the world! It was a good time, too, as Huey Lewis and Jennifer Rush found out, to be releasing songs called ‘The Power of Love.’
Band Aid ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’
Being a rather worthy budding socialist, I bought the 7″ and 12″ of this song. (This was before I went through my anti-charity phase, ranting to my parents that it was the government’s responsibility; something that I still believe, but am no longer naive enough to believe is an option.) I saw the video recently, and it’s amazing how puffy-eyed and just-got-out-of-bed they all look. No fancy video for this, just a bunch of pop stars seemingly bumming around in a studio. Bananarama still looked really foxy, though.
So, 1984: ’twas a good year. Part three will be the Getting Into ‘Real’ Music Years (aka Records That Don’t Get To Number One Years), 1985 to 1991. But, I warn you, if you think that ‘I Just Called To Say I Love You’ is a black mark in my music history, wait until you find out which one I bought in 1985…
For some reason, I happened to look at the Official UK Singles Chart on the BBC Radio 1 website yesterday. It was quite a revelation for me to find that there’s only a handful of artists that I’ve heard of, let alone their songs. The songs by Shakira and Lily Allen are the only ones I’ve (knowingly) heard.
This made me wonder where my keeping-up-with-the-charts went, as there was a time when I could virtually recite the whole top 40 singles of a given week, obsessed as I was with pop music in my teens.
Next port of call was this site that lists every number one single in the UK, which led me to indulge in some graph porn:
That graph tells me two obvious things. First, that I don’t buy singles any more (the graph only includes singles that I bought at the time that they were in the charts; it doesn’t include number ones that appear on albums I own, unless I bought the album as a direct result of liking that particular song). And second, that more singles get to number one and stay there for shorter times these days.
I’m fairly sure that my days of interest in the single are over. That’s a shame, really. I enjoyed buying singles. I enjoyed reading the names on the sleeves or the messages scratched into the run-off groove. I enjoyed obsessing on one song, playing it over and over again. I enjoyed that ever-so-special idea of the b-side, especially when bands made an effort to give you value for money. I suppose I do the same these days with mp3s, but they have less impact, and only stay in my head for a couple of weeks.
Here – for my own enjoyment, really – is every UK number one record I’ve ever bought, part one: 1980 – 1983.
John Lennon ‘(Just Like) Starting Over’
This was the year I began buying records, and this was the only number one I bought. Well, half-bought: I went halves (45p each!) with my Mum because she liked it too. That was just a couple of days before he was murdered. Not that I knew that he was the guy in The Beatles at that point. I, of course, knew the songs of The Beatles, but I didn’t connect the voice on those songs with the one on ‘(Just Like) Starting Over.’
Adam & The Ants ‘Stand and Deliver’
This was likely the first single I bought within days of its release. By this time, after all the pirate stuff, Adam Ant was the best thing I’d ever seen. Just the words ‘dandy highwayman’ sparkled in my brain as I was quite into Dick Turpin at the time, too. And the video was fantastic.
The Specials ‘Ghost Town’
In early 1980s Lincoln, the fashion amongst people my age (I was ten years old at the time) was for jeans which had either a white or red pinstripe running down the outside seam. The tougher kids had Harrington jackets or fishtail parkas. I had a dark blue parka with one of those massive hoods that you could suffocate in if you zipped it right up. It was all, as far as I remember, a vague approximation of the ska look the older boys in town had. This song always reminds me of a ‘lesson’ one day at junior school where our teacher asked us all to bring in a record that we could listen to. Looking back, that just seems like a lazy teacher’s way of not doing any work. ‘Ghost Town’ was the one I took in, and the very first record I bought with two songs on the b-side.
Soft Cell ‘Tainted Love’
Maybe my memory of these early records is stronger because there are a lot of firsts… This one was the first single I bought with the word ‘love’ in the title. It is strange that I remember that so vividly, but I got quite embarrassed at that early age when my parents suggested that I might have fancied a girl or something; so I was also embarrassed to buy a record with ‘love’ in the title. Silly, huh? It’s still a great sounding record, especially the 12″ version which segues into ‘Where Did Our Love Go?'; a version that was still incredibly popular in the discotheques of Lincoln in the late eighties.
Adam & The Ants ‘Prince Charming’
I was having a drunken conversation about the inventiveness of some music from the eighties in the hotel bar when I was at the Haldern Festival a couple of weeks ago (yes, I stayed in a hotel, not a tent). This song wasn’t mentioned, but it illustrates why I’m no longer that excited by the pop charts. There’s a lack of invention nowadays. How many artists or record companies would dare to put out a record that begins like this one does now with its freaky screeching and drums? Anyway, it’s another excellent pantomime video.
Paul McCartney & Stevie Wonder ‘Ebony and Ivory’
I like those Paul McCartney songs we’re all supposed to be snooty about. ‘Pipes of Peace,’ ‘No More Lonely Nights,’ ‘Say Say Say,’ ‘We All Stand Together.’ I even like ‘Spies Like Us.’
Musical Youth ‘Pass The Dutchie’
Often, I’d sit by my record player when listening to a song, and as the fade out begun, I’d slowly try to counter it by turning the volume up. I used to wonder why records faded out. A band wouldn’t fade out a song when they wrote it. They wouldn’t fade out when they played it live. But I guess (and it’s just a guess; I don’t know it for sure) that fade outs are there to make records easier to play on the radio, so the DJ isn’t left stranded with a sudden ending.
Duran Duran ‘Is There Something I Should Know?’
It’s quite hard to believe that Duran Duran didn’t have a number one single until this one. But it’s a good one. I was very into Duran Duran, and, as the Mother’s Manual states that she must do, my mum told me many times that ‘they won’t be around as long as Cliff Richard, that’s for sure.’ Which, I now know, is wrong. Duran Duran are still together, over 25 years on from their first record; about the same length of time Cliff had been around when she told me that. Anyway, at the time I used to copy the logo on the sleeve, just with CR instead of the DD.
New Edition ‘Candy Girl’
Easy as one, two, three.
The Police ‘Every Breath You Take’
Paul Young ‘Wherever I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home)’
I bought this single in a town called Sleaford in Lincolnshire. On the way home, I said something that annoyed my mum, and she made me get out the car and walk home. We were only a couple of miles from home at the point. My memory of that event was, until recently, that I did walk home; but I’m not so sure now. I can’t imagine her letting me do that. So I probably just walked a few hundred feet to where she’d stopped further along the road.
UB40 ‘Red Red Wine’
The first of seven number one records in a row that I bought. This coincides wi
th a period where I was relatively ill and in hospital for six weeks; thus not doing anything else with my pocket money, and fluttering my poor, sickly eyelashes at my mum to get her to buy me extra records. I liked this record a lot at the time. I especially liked the sleeve, which was one of those generic record label sleeves with the circle cut out of the centre to show the label on the record, but it was a lovely shade of grey.
Culture Club ‘Karma Chameleon’
Yes, Mum, he does dress like a girl.
Billy Joel ‘Uptown Girl’
I think we should be able to have some sort of ‘memory tax’ levied on musicians like Westfuckinglife when they do shitty cover versions of songs we like. Ditto bands that allow songs we like to be tainted by being on adverts. In the future, when our life’s memories are all embedded on microchips in our skulls, I think we should be able to go to the Department of Music and prove that, yes, I love Billy Joel’s song, and the presence of Westlife’s version in the world is causing me to get angry as it’s polluting my memories; therefore Westlife owe me £50. That’s what I’d do if I was your prime minister.
The Flying Pickets ‘Only You’
Now this one really does remind me of being in hospital. Not that I listened to the record itself; it was just on the hospital’s radio station a lot. I had something called Reiter’s syndrome, which is some freaky weird thing that lead to me having uveitis (a tougher version of conjunctivitis), urethritis (as painful as you might imagine from its name), and arthritis. Lots of things ending in ‘-tis,’ really. What happened is this: one day, I was coming back from town. There were two buses that serviced my area of North Hykeham: one that went virtually to my door, the other that required a further 15 minute walk. I was on the latter of those buses. I began walking back, and after about five minutes, I, err, went toilet (number twos) in my trousers. I was thirteen years old at the time. You can imagine how horrible the rest of my journey home was. Anyway, later that day it began to hurt when I tried to piss. The general concensus in the house was I was just ‘a bit ill.’ Both of my parents were already at work by the time I got up the next morning to go to school. I got out of bed, and my legs gave way. Couldn’t walk. So I had to drag myself along the floor to the bathroom. Doctor came, and I was in bed for a couple of days. Things didn’t get better, so I went to hospital, got diagnosed, and stayed in bed with my legs in splints for six weeks. By the time I was well again, the muscles in my legs had completely wasted away and I had to spend the next six months having physiotherapy twice a week. But, it had it’s plus side: it meant I could miss my German lessons at school, cos fuck it, I’ll never need to speak German…
Anyway, that was 1980 to 1983. More of this music stuff soon, picking up in 1984; a year where I bought all but two of the fourteen UK number one singles.
Like a toilet cistern after a flush, my brain is empty. But I need to get my brain started again, so here goes with a some random typing – one step up from those monkeys who fail to type Shakespeare’s complete works…
I was reading in bed last night, and my bookmark slipped free when I slightly loosened the grip on the front half of the book which was housing the bookmark. It hit the mattress, and slid down between the bed abd the wall. Even though I knew my hand wouldn’t fit down there, I tried to fish it out, mainly because I hoped it had somehow lodged itself within a scissor-finger-snip’s distance. But, no. The opposite was true. Not only had it gone down all they – I found out when investigating further this morning – but had also managed to slip down the tiny gap between the floorboards and the wall. I guess it’ll stay there forever, until it decomposes; maybe being used as an ironing board by a mouse in the meantime.
There are several things in life that you can’t really say out loud to other people. ‘Nazis are great,’ I would imagine, is one of those. Another thing you’re not really allowed by polite society and popular concensus to say, is anything bad about firemen. Firemen are brill! Well, maybe; and if I’m ever rescued from my burning flat after I’ve fallen asleep with a fag in my hand, I will concur. But for now, firemen – Berlin firemen, specifically the ones in Prenzlauer Berg – are fuckers. Twice in the past few days, I’ve been waiting to cross a road (not at a junction, just in the middle of a long straight road; nowhere near a junction, in fact) and right at the moment the fire engine had got to the point where it was about to speed past me, they’ve turned on their sirens. One of those times, I even saw a fireman watching for my reaction out of the window and smiling maliciously. Bastards.
And here’s a list of Billys that my darling spaniel wasn’t named after: Billy Idol, Billy Connolly, Billy Graham, Billy Joel, Billy Bremner, Billy Bob Thornton, Billy the Kid, Billy Corgan, Billy Elliott, Billy Fury, Billy Bunter, or Billy Ocean.
I had a few days away from Berlin and went to a festival about an hour outside of Düsseldorf. It was the Haldern Pop Festival and had a very nice line-up (Lambchop, Mogwai and The Twilight Singers were the headline acts).
I’m ashamed to say that I thought of time and price over environment and flew there on an airline called DBA. Americans reading this next sentence may well faint: among the complimentary newspapers you can choose from as you board the plane was Playboy. Yes, ladies in the nude! For free!
My main reason for going was to see a friend who manages a young band, Mumm-Ra, who were playing there. So lucky for me, I had one of those fancy dangly passes around my neck which meant I could swan around like one of those people you always hate: nipping backstage to get a free beer or some free food whenever I wanted to.
But, it’s not that glamorous. Just some benches and caravans, really.
I didn’t really see that many bands, though. The aformentioned Mumm-Ra were good. Mystery Jets and The Zutons were both enjoyable too.
Being able to hide in a hospitality marquee when it pissed down with rain was a bonus.
Still, my jeans and sweatshirt were still damp when I left on Saturday morning, so I traipsed around Düsseldorf for a couple of hours before I flew home, wet and a bit stinky. Of course, there was only one thing I really wanted to see while I was there – this building:
It doesn’t look like much, does it? But, somewhere behind that metal shutter is Kraftwerk’s studio, Kling Klang. That’s another of my life’s gotta-do things ticked off: standing outside their studio, listening to their music on my headphones. Having damp clothes wasn’t part of that dream, but life’s not always perfect, is it?