Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Z is for Zager and Evans

I'm feeling a bit sad that we've got to Z - it's the end of this year's Blogging from A to Z Challenge. I suppose I should feel a sense of satisfaction that I've made it thus far. Also, and MOST importantly, it's brought me closer to the date when I am reunited with herself. Yes, I am counting the days. I hope that those of you who came to my blog because of the A to Z Challenge will continue to visit. I've certainly seen other blogs that I intend to keep reading. It's been fun and, it's early days admittedly, but I couldn't rule out doing it again.

However, that's very much for the future and the future was the main concern of the one hit that Zager and Evans had. One hit is all you need if it sticks in people's minds and In The Year 2525 definitely stuck in my youthful mind in 1969. The single reached the number one slot at the time of the first manned moon landing, how much more memorable do you need something to be? A cautionary tale of what might happen if mankind becomes too dependent on modern technology, the single still has some relevance, I guess, although where would the A to Z Challenge be without "modern technology"?

Anyway, 2525 was one of those songs that made an impression although I couldn't have necessarily told you who sang it. As a result, it was only when I was researching likely candidates for my Z posting that I came up with Zager and Evans. Sorry, guys. Thanks to Wikipedia I can tell you that Zager and Evans continued to record after releasing 2525, but with limited success. Their follow-up single, Mr Turnkey, was about a rapist who nails his own wrist to the jail wall as an act of atonement. Interesting, as we Brits say when we very often mean the complete reverse.

Also-rans: I love the thumping power of some ZZ Top singles which for some reason reminds me of Thatcherism. Mrs Thatcher rocking out to Gimme All Your Lovin' - it seems unlikely, doesn't it? Also a very honourable mention to Warren Zevon. I am always receptive to a good song, as I've said before, and he's been responsible for lots of good songs, not least Werewolves Of London. Oh, and let's not forget Frank Zappa. I'm really going to miss doing this...

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Y is for Neil Young

Y is, as you'll have seen, for Neil Young, but it could just as easily be for "Ye gods, we've nearly made it". I'm running on fumes at this stage and I've struggled a little bit to come up with a Y reference that also triggers a memory.

However, sometimes a great bit of writing will just fix a song in your memory and so it is with Neil Young's After The Gold Rush. I love the song and the album of the same name.

It's one of those songs you listen to and go "Yeah, I mean, yeah, know". And then you could reasonably go, "but what on earth is it all about?" A little trawl on the internet will come up with a variety of explanations from people who also like the song, but find it leaves them a little baffled.

I have absolutely no intention of trying to come up with my version of what the song means, if, indeed, it means anything. Who cares? Does it matter? Sometimes liking something for those reasons you keep in your head and your heart is more than enough.

As I write this I am listening to the album and I'm torn about which song's video to include in the post, but I suppose it really can only be After The Gold Rush.

Also-rans: This is somewhat tenuous. I once met former Yes keyboard player Rick Wakeman on the Lundy supply ship, the Oldenburg. He was accompanied by his wife at that time, the former model Nina Carter. He was a nice bloke to talk to, but I was busy just trying my hardest not to stare too obviously at Nina Carter. Strangely enough it used to be possible to buy a tea towel which had on it a picture of Rick Wakeman and Nina Carter.

Monday, 28 April 2014

X is for X-Ray Spex

April, 1978, and when I should have been studying hard for my A Level exams I was doing things like going to London to join a Rock Against Racism march which ended with a splendid gig in Victoria Park, Hackney.

Performing that day were such punk luminaries as The Clash and The Tom Robinson Band as well as reggae band Steel Pulse. But the musical memory link is formed by the wonderful X-Ray Spex and their superbly raucous singer Poly Styrene. Such names were de rigueur in the world of 1970s punk.

I had already bought the single Oh Bondage Up Yours!  by X-Ray Spex and the chance to see live the creators of such a joyous two-fingers to pomposity was too good to miss. As a result, I was part of the march which took us past pubs from where National Front supporters would emerge to call us "red scum". That's all they did and I think the day passed off peaceably on the whole.

Poly Styrene died from cancer in 2011, but her unforgettable voice - and believe me once you've heard her, you won't forget - ensures that she lives on.

The sound quality isn't the best on this video, but you'll get the idea.

Just for the record, my A Level results were a disappointment although I don't think they can have been much of a surprise to anyone who knew my lacklustre approach to studying. However, I survived and I can always say I saw Poly Styrene on stage.

Also-rans: XTC: A very fleeting memory of the father of a friend of mine seeing XTC on television and being very sarcastic about them. What I particularly remember is thinking "You're not meant to like them, you're an old man". This was slightly unfair and he might actually have been younger than I am now, but our perceptions of age certainly change with time.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

W is for Steve Winwood

More than 30 years ago my attempts to get my first job in newspapers were meeting little success and then I got two offers - one for a paper in the north of England and one in the South-West. I headed west ("Go West, young man" etc etc) and in the words of Robert Frost's famous poem The Road Not Taken "that has made all the difference".

It's a tempting game to play where you wonder "what if?" and it's too easy to view certain decisions as turning points, but I think my decision to head to Devon was important and much of what is most significant in my life followed directly and indirectly from that decision.

Steve Winwood fits in here because in 1980, the year I got that vital first job on a paper, his first solo single While You See A Chance was in the charts. He has had an illustrious career and played a part in many great singles, but this one remains a favourite and seems quite fitting to the way I was thinking at the time.

The video is worth watching if only for the strange antics of the two people in the gimp suits.

Also-rans: The Who and in particular their album Quadrophenia. I tried to sing like Roger Daltrey, usually after a certain amount of drink had been taken, but the truth is nobody can sing like Roger Daltrey except the man himself. A feisty legend to this day, as far as I'm concerned. Also, yes, two Also-Rans today, Andy Williams singing Can't Take My Eyes Off You. This featured in a bar scene in Michael Cimono's The Deer Hunter which is one of my favourite scenes from one of my favourite films.

Friday, 25 April 2014

V is for Vivaldi

We've got this far through the alphabet and this is the first time I've touched on classical music, which is probably a realistic reflection of my musical tastes. "I don't know much about classical music, but I know what I like."

Nearly 30 years ago I was admitted to hospital having been diagnosed with cancer. I was about to be operated on and, to be honest, I was pretty scared. Luckily for me, my oldest daughter had lent me her personal tape player - nothing as swanky as a Sony Walkman, but it did the job - and I had been given a tape of Vivaldi's Four Seasons. The music transported me away from the hospital ward.

It is a beautiful piece of music and suffers a bit these days for being so well known and so popular. It nearly breaks my heart every time I hear it used as "hold music" when I'm on the phone to some big corporation.

Ideally, I'd post the whole of the Four Seasons for you to enjoy, but it's quite a long work, certainly compared to most pop songs. Instead, and trying to think laterally, I'm going to post Silver Star by the Four Seasons. I know...some people think I just chuck this stuff out, but there's real thought goes in to it sometimes. While nothing like the Vivaldi, the song does have some joyous harmonies in it which should lift the spirits.

Also-rans: If further cheering-up is needed, try Village People's YMCA. It reminds of events such as wedding discos when everyone's had a few drinks and loses their inhibitions enough to just get out on the dance floor and have fun. Very important.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

U is for The Undertones

"Teenage dreams, so hard to beat." That's from the Undertones Teenage Kicks which came out in my late teens and is just one of those perfect singles.

The late John Peel played the single twice in a row on his radio show because he liked it so much. After his death the line from the song was inscribed on his headstone. That's the sort of song it is, it has meaning and significance, but is still pure punky pop.

No specific memories to do with this great song other than it seemed to be the perfect soundtrack to my latter teenage years. I think I was just beginning to realise that going round with a face like a smacked arse and being all angst-ridden was only acceptable (but only just) from a spotty teen. The big wide world beckoned.

"Teenage dreams, so hard to beat." Oh, they are, they really are.

Enjoy the video, in fact, why not play it twice?

Also-rans: U-Roy Dread In A Babylon. A lot of punks (I wasn't really a punk, I just liked the music) were in to reggae. I sort of slavishly followed suit, but then found bits of reggae that I really liked, such as U-Roy. "We're going to light up a chalice in the palace," hmm, and then again, maybe we're not. 

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

T is for the Thompson Twins

The year 1984 was a special year. Forget Orwell's novel of the same name, actually don't forget it, it's a great piece of work that continues to serve as a warning to us all. However, for the purposes of this blog, put the novel to one side.

No, 1984 was special to me because it was the year I got married and also the year that I first flew. In fact, put those events in reverse order. A holiday flight to Spain and then a few weeks later back in the UK, tying the knot after which connubial bliss ensued (30 years this year).

So far, so good. The musical memory comes from the second time I flew, which was that summer in an RAF Hercules. In those days I was a newspaper reporter and my job that day was to cover the local RAF station's air day. Included in this assignment was going up in the Hercules with the RAF's parachute display team, the Falcons. No, nothing so bonkers as doing a parachute jump with them, just talk to them as they prepared for their jump and then observe them as they peeled off from the gaping ramp of the Hercules as it flew at about 12,000ft.

All well and good, we were on long harnesses so we couldn't fall out and it was quite something to see a group of men take a leap in to the wide blue yonder. But after that we were all told to sit down sharpish because the plane had to make a "tactical landing". Basically that's going from 12,000ft to the ground as swiftly as possible to get out of the way of the next flying display.

"You will experience positive and negative G," we were warned. They were right, one minute I was being crunched in to my seat, the next I was rising up against the harness holding me in place. Not a good sensation for a relatively nervous novice air passenger. We landed perfectly safely and somehow I managed to resist the urge to kiss the ground.

So where do the Thompson Twins fit in? And, by the way, I mean the 1980s New Wave group, not Tintin's detective chums although that's who they were named after. Well, before we took off in the Hercules the RAF Falcons played out on the ground the manoeuvres they would follow in their descent. It's a slightly odd spectacle on the ground and all the time they were doing that one of their team was playing a Thompson Twins' tape. Perhaps oddly for such a personally remarkable year, I have nothing by the Thompson Twins in my collection, just some wonderful memories.

Here's a bit of music to jump out of planes to.

Also-rans: Talking Heads and Once In A Lifetime. "Well, how did I get here?", a great line and always a good one to sing when things become puzzling, shall we say. Also Marquee Moon by Television. Both these fine American bands remind me that not all the best rock'n'roll begins "1...2...3...4".

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

S is for Sex Pistols

I suppose if I'd stopped to think about it at the time, I might have seen a certain calculated approach from the Sex Pistols in everything they did, particularly when considering their manager Malcolm McLaren. They were a bit like a naughty child who says a rude word just to get a reaction.

But in the heady days of 1970s punk I couldn't have been happier buying their singles. I loved 'em. I still have them, but haven't played them for years, which might be significant, then again it could be that putting a single on a record player is quite laborious in these days of digital downloads.

So in the Queen's Silver Jubilee year of 1977 the Sex Pistols released their notorious God Save The Queen which wasn't a light-hearted punk take on the national anthem, but instead a demented thrash which ended with lots of chanting about their being "no future". It was the perfect single to go with a sulky teenager's (me) view of the jubilee, not that my stropping about had any noticeable effect on anyone else's enjoyment of the celebrations.

The single came off the album Never Mind The Bollocks, Here's The Sex Pistols which I never got around to buying. I think the thing with punk was that as long as bands produced singles lasting about 2m 30s and which began with a gobby youth shouting "1...2...3...4" then all was good, but an album? I don't think so.

Rather than put up some video of the Pistols doing GSTQ I've selected a version of their first single Anarchy In The UK by a band called, I think, Sick Diary. Quite a spirited bash at it and some splendidly impassive playing by the bassist. She is showing the way the bass guitar ought to be played.

Also-rans: Where would I be without Bruce Springsteen? Lots of memories to do with his music, but I'll settle on Glory Days which always reminds me of meeting up with friends I haven't seen for ages and going to the pub to catch up.

Monday, 21 April 2014

R is for Jonathan Richman

Week four of my musical trip down memory lane where sometimes I don't even much like the music and the memories are odd, but hey ho let's go, as the Ramones said although they're not my letter R.

Instead, I offer you Jonathan Richman. He is one of those musicians who just seems to go and do whatever takes his fancy. This might explain why he doesn't bestride the earth like a mighty Colossus, but I don't suppose he cares. His great contribution to my musical memories is Roadrunner, which he did with his band The Modern Lovers.

Around the time it was released in 1976 I was obsessed with motorbikes and it was the perfect accompaniment to daydreaming about being on two wheels. I used to scrounge goes on friends' mopeds and motorbikes and eventually bought a motorbike of my own. It was a short-lived love affair as the big end went and my motorbike rotted away. Never mind, there's still Roadrunner.

Also-rans: Radiohead and, specifically, their single Creep. This came on the radio as I was driving to the funeral of a friend who died too young. It has absolutely nothing to do with him, but that's the way it is sometimes, the tune just sticks. Anyone thinking R would be the Rolling Stones was wrong with a capital R.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Q is for Queen

This one is going to be short and sweet. Queen released Bohemian Rhapsody in 1975 and I remember declaring to my friends it would not be a hit.

Nine weeks at Number One and selling a million copies by January, 1976, must qualify it as a hit. Good job Freddie and the boys didn't come to me for advice on which singles to release.

I'm not really sure why I didn't rate its chance in the charts. It does go on a bit, which would count against it as far as I'm concerned. Whatever, I WAS WRONG and you don't often get that admission out of me.

It's one of those singles that seems beyond parody and there are many versions of it. One of my favourites is the car scene from Wayne's World, but I reckon a lot of people know that one already. Instead, try this rendition by a man who shows that we humans are endlessly resourceful when it comes to amusing ourselves.

I just hope it was his hands he was using there.

Also-rans: These are clothing-related. Suzi Quatro, whose tight leather outfits had a most unsettling effect on me in my youth, and denim-clad rockers Status Quo (the Q is what counts here). In emulation of Quo I once had a denim waistcoat, what was I thinking?

Friday, 18 April 2014

P is for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

You can't really do road trips in the UK. Well, not as I imagine them to be possible in the USA. Even so, my letter P selection links in to the nearest I ever got to doing a regular road trip.

I used to live in Devon, my parents in Kent. Consequently I got to know the drive between the South-West of England and its South-Easternmost point pretty well. Sometimes I had my children with me so music to keep us entertained was important. I'm pleased to say that Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were a cross-generational favourite.

The route I took went past Stonehenge so Tom Petty often provided the accompaniment to a quick stop at the 'henge for a pee before heading on to the horrors of the M3 followed by that monument to traffic congestion, the M25. Somewhere in the preceding sentence there ought to be a joke about rock music and a load of old rocks, but I'm not sure I can be bothered. You have a go if you want to.

Here's the man himself, not looking like an ancient monument.

And here's Stonehenge. When I was a child we would stop there on our way to holidays in the South-West and I would clamber all over the stones. If you try that now, guards dressed as druids will appear and shoot you with Tazers.

Also-rans: Gene Pitney. I once went to a Gene Pitney concert, I think mainly because I was the only person who would take the review tickets. He struck me as being not very tall, but had a mighty voice. He reminded me of a person I used to know called Walter, who had mental health problems. This was not because, like Walter, Gene Pitney went around going "Hello, Curly" at people, but because they both had a slightly vulnerable look to them.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

O is for Roy Orbison

O was always going to have to be Roy Orbison, his nickname was, after all, The Big O, although even a cursory search on the internet will reveal that the term The Big O will not necessarily lead you to Roy Orbison.

For now, though, it does, and in particular to his hit, Oh, Pretty Woman. I think I remember it when it first came out, but that's the trouble with this memory lark, you can't really un-remember things. I just know that I know the song.

Where this is leading to is the film Pretty Woman, which used Roy Orbison's song on its soundtrack and which stars Julia Roberts and Richard Gere. The film is OK, but I am always surprised by the number of women who swoon over it for being "so romantic".

I suppose it is if your idea of romance is a multi-millionaire buying sexual services from a woman who has to sell her body in order to pay her bills. Apparently though, this doesn't count when you have the ending in which said rich man saves his favourite prostitute from a life of turning tricks and they both live happily ever after.

I shall just have to lighten up and accept that Pretty Woman is a Hollywood take on the story of Cinderella and that's that. I'm obviously in a minority which reminds me of another of The Big O's singles, Only The Lonely (Know The Way I Feel).

Here's Roy Orbison NOT singing about a prostitute. By the way, the drummer in this is clearly at the point of ecstasy.

Also-rans: Hat tip to John Gill of Skopelos News for his suggestions at a time when I was flagging. I opted for Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. Reminds me of reporting on Bideford Magistrates' Court when a hack from a rival publication sang the intro to OMD's hit Enola Gay and wanted to know what the tune was. Fortunately the magistrates were out but that didn't stop my fellow reporter getting a few odd looks. I was able to enlighten him which at least shut him up.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

N is for The Normal

Ah, who can forget TVOD and Warm Leatherette? Lots of people, I should think, that is if they'd even heard them in the first place. Both tracks are the A and B sides of the first single by the Normal.

I bought the single after hearing it on the John Peel show and it reminds me of him and his fantastically broad taste in music. Some of the music I liked, some I didn't and frankly, listening to the Normal's single now, I'm not sure which category this single falls in.

Here's a version by Chicks On Speed that I think John Peel might have enjoyed were he still with us.

Also-rans: Norman Cook. All right, this is cheating slightly because the music I'm thinking of is issued under Norman Cook's stage name, Fatboy Slim. Anyway, Fatboy Slim's music tends to make me think of dancing. That's dancing as I know it, not what other people think of dancing. You have been warned.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

M is for Van Morrison

This is an easy one. Van Morrison's Brown Eyed Girl reminds me, not that I need reminding, of my dear wife. After all, it is, in a way, because of her that I'm doing this challenge to make April pass a little more quickly and we are now at the halfway mark, which means we're closing in on the time when I shall see her again in May. For a quick refresher on all of this see here.

There are quite a few brown eyed girls in my family, but today there's one who is particularly on my mind. So now I'm just going to listen to the music and think about her.

Also-rans: Phil Menard and his Louisiana Travellers playing One Is A Lonely Number. This reminds me of the time I nearly drove my family mad by repeatedly playing a compilation tape of Cajun music as we went round the Vendée region of France. I tried to justify this by pointing out the Cajuns had originally come from that area before crossing the Atlantic to settle in Canada and ultimately ending up in Louisiana. This nod to history carried little weight with my family. I still like the song and it's quite appropriate at the moment.

Monday, 14 April 2014

L is for Led Zeppelin

First two tracks of Led Zep IV, the runes album, Zoso, whatever you wish to call it, had me hooked the moment I heard them. They still get me excited in ways that a man my age should surely have outgrown by now. Proper bish bash bosh rock'n'roll.

So what I regard as my Black Dog, Rock And Roll (tracks 1 and 2) memory is listening to this album in my mate Tony McCarthy's bedroom while drinking Strongbow cider. Not a good idea really for me as a teenager, over-excitement from the music and chemical stimulation from the cider. He had to keep turning down the volume as I, in my febrile state, kept wanting the music louder and louder.

In the end I tottered off in to the night. Tony's mum gave me a bit of a funny look as I said goodbye. I suspect I appeared to be quite drunk and I think I might have been sick on my way home. Funnily enough while I still like Led Zeppelin I'm not very keen on cider.

As a postscript I would add that those two tracks do still affect me. I once fell backwards off the sofa while dancing to Rock And Roll, which I was doing in an attempt to psyche myself up for going to a job that I had become severely disenchanted with in my late 40s.

The video seems to support my view that Rock And Roll (the track) affects different people in different ways. I should warn you that a rude word written in ketchup appears very briefly right at the end.

Also-rans: Lynyrd Skynyrd. I used to live in a grotty bedsit and the bloke in the equally grotty bedsit above mine used to play Free Bird by Lynyrd Skynyrd having first taken off the return arm on his record player. It played over and over again - talk about aversion therapy.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

K is for the Kinks

This is a bit tricky because there's no specific memory that I can pin to the Kinks, but I do get a sense of my Englishness from them. It's Englishness that has nothing to do with jingoism and everything to do with a sense of almost whimsy mixed up a bit with melancholy.

There are any number of Kinks numbers that deserve a mention but I've picked Waterloo Sunset because it's a beautiful song laced through as it is with great wistfulness. This bit of video is a bit murky, but don't forget it was Britain in the 1960s, we'd only just got electricity.

Also-rans: There's nothing wrong in being an also-ran to the Kinks especially if you are the late Kirsty MacColl. She did a beautiful version of Days. If I listen to both these songs back-to-back I get quite emotional and have to take a long walk with the dog, preferably in the rain.

Friday, 11 April 2014

J is for Jimi Hendrix

What's that you say? Jimi Hendrix should be under H for Hendrix? Look, you index things your way, I'll do it mine.

I'm a bit too young to really have been into Hendrix (filed under J for Jimi), but I know he caused a stir. In particular, my mother had homicidal thoughts about him. I guess she was always a bit too old for Hendrix.

I have a very clear memory of Jimi Hendrix appearing on British TV. While he was playing the guitar with his teeth, my mother, who as I said was no fan, said: "I hope he electrocutes himself." I told you she didn't like him.

Poor Jimi, it wasn't playing the guitar with his teeth that did for him, nor even setting fire to his guitar, instead it was asphyxia following aspiration of vomit. The precise details of his death are disputed by some, but at 27 - the mythical age for rockers to die - he was too young to go. And, just to be clear about this, my mother had NOTHING to do with it.

Watch this and marvel.

Also-rans: Tricky, but just for the way some songs pin certain memories firmly in place I'd go for Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word by Elton John which takes me straight to the back bar of the Golden Lion pub in Whitstable where we used to play bar billiards and drink illegally. It was a bit of an old gits pub, I wonder what would have happened if we'd tried to play Jimi Hendrix on the jukebox.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

I is for Iggy Pop

As I write this post I am listening to the CD version of Raw Power by Iggy and the Stooges. It reminds me that the vinyl version, which I have in my collection, is responsible for me having a slightly irrational dislike of David Bowie.

Iggy and Bowie have a history of working together which has produced some very fine work, but Bowie's mix on Raw Power, which he did in collaboration with Iggy, makes it sound as if you're listening to it through a wall. I bought the vinyl version many years ago having read that it was a must-have for anyone who liked ballsy rock'n'roll. I liked it and still sing the songs to myself while walking my dog, but there was something missing from that recording. And then came Iggy's remix and lo! there was the most wonderful noise and Raw Power had turned in to what I was expecting all along.

In the sleeve notes for the CD Iggy Pop admits that a lack of technology, money, time and equipment led to the original version so it's fair to say my dislike of David Bowie, which is only slight really, is completely irrational, but I'm only human. On the back of the CD, Iggy says: "Everything's still in the red, it's a very violent mix." Yes, it is, it's brilliant. Let's listen to some of it.

You might want to sit quietly for a while after listening to that. Or try the Also-Rans.

Also-rans: Easy one, this...Summer Breeze by the Isley Brothers. It's a beautiful summer tune, even in winter.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

H is for Bill Haley and the Comets

Time to slaughter a sacred cow. Supposedly Bill Haley and the Comets brought rock'n'roll to a wider audience in America and the rest is history. Well, so what? I expect he was revolutionary for his time, but all I could ever see was a load of blokes in matching clothes led by a tubby gent with a kiss curl.

Is there a memory attached to all this? Only in that I remember I don't like it. Sorry and all that, I know he led the charge at a time when all around were crooners with string section backing music, but I don't like it. And another thing, if he was going to call himself Blah Blah and the Comets he should have been Bill HALLEY as in the comet.

Rant over and you're NOT getting a film, but come back tomorrow when I'll be much more loving and giving, sort of.

Also-rans: Not an also-ran at all, but anyway....I offer to you Isaac Hayes and, in particular, the Shaft theme. Cool, cool, cool, which is more than can be said of a certain Bill Haley AND Isaac Hayes was chef in South Park.

I'll leave you to decide which of these two gents, neither of whom is still with us, really had their mojo in full working order.

Exhibit A

Exhibit B
What do you mean, which one's which?

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

G is for Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five

Ah, hip hop, some good, some...well, let's leave it there, shall we? But in the good category I would definitely put Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, if only for their splendid name.

I really liked The Message by GFATFF, so much so that when it appeared on the jukebox of a rather seedy (yes, a bit more seediness) pub I used to frequent in Bideford I'd try to put it on again and again. The single includes the insistent line "Don't push me, cos I'm close to the edge" and so it seems was John, the landlord of said seedy pub. By repeatedly selecting the single I drove him nuts and he rejected it whenever it came on to play. Never mind, I had some good nights in that boozer.

Here is The Message in all its glory. There is no chance John can reject it, he passed away a few years ago.

Also-rans: I'm not a fan of Genesis, but play I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe) from their album Selling England By The Pound and I am instantly transported to Gatefield Sounds record shop (I think that was the name) in Canterbury. I used to go in there in my teens, smoke countless cigarettes and spend hours listening to records on the headphones that all record shops used to have. The song had that great line "Me, I'm just a lawnmower, you can tell me by the way I walk." No idea what it means and I don't really care. I never bought the album, either.

For more on the A to Z Challenge go to: 

Monday, 7 April 2014

F is for Fleetwood Mac

Here we are jogging along nicely in to week two of the A to Z Challenge in which I am writing about music and the seemingly random memories it can throw up.

It occurs to me that so far little of what I've written about reflects my musical tastes, but then as I keep pointing out this is about memories as much as music. This particular memory features Captain Dim, a real person, I assure you.

So, Fleetwood Mac and principally their gazillion-selling LP Rumours. I don't mind them and I quite, but only quite, like the LP. However, play the album on the slightly tinny sound system of a very tinny Ford Escort - this was in 1979 - as you drive around Sheffield desperately trying to look cool and the music becomes so much better.

The Ford belonged to Captain Dim, someone who lived in the same seedy lodging house as me and my friend, Brian. I think Captain Dim's real name was Roger, but he definitely had Captain Dim on the toolbox he used to take to work. Anyway, he lent us his car while he was away for a while and we charged around in it listening to Rumours. There is a certain dissonance between Sheffield in the late 1970s and the California rock of Fleetwood Mac, but that didn't stop us having a good time - and then the car broke down. Story of my life all over.

Nobody needs to see a video of Fleetwood Mac so instead here is some video featuring someone called Captain Dim. Not the same one from all those years ago, but a very athletic substitute.

Also-rans: Four Tops singing Reach Out, I'll Be There. Just reminds me of being dragged around Chatham town centre by my gran while she went shopping. An utterly great song to be dragged around to.

For more on the A to Z Challenge go to: 

Saturday, 5 April 2014

E is for The Eagles

Getting lyrics wrong by accident or design has been a speciality of mine for years which is how we've come to The Eagles, purveyors of American rock with a faint twist of country in there somewhere.

Whatever it was they were singing about had nothing to do with my life growing up in a small seaside town in Kent, until, that is, they released Hotel California. A weird song which gets quoted a lot..."you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave", yes you have, you've sung that, admit it.

Anyway, to business, the title was readily changed by me and, I'm sure, countless others in Whitstable to Hotel Continental, the name of a hotel in the town. God how we laughed at that one. The Hotel Continental is now apparently quite swanky, but back in the old days was a bit of a toilet. I think things began to improve when I moved away.

Coincidentally I moved to Sheffield where my friends and I subverted the Eagles Take It To The Limit to Take ME To The Limit, which just happened to be the name of a rather grubby club in the city. If you think there's a bit of a link between grubbiness and me you could be right. As I have said elsewhere these postings are not necessarily about significant moments, just the oddities of recollection.

I'm definitely not the only person who likes the idea of mucking around with lyrics. I recently read Under The Eye Of The Clock by Christopher Nolan. In it he recounts that when the song Stranger In Paradise (from the musical Kismet, I believe) was popular his father used to sing "Take my hand, I'm a strange whore in paradise". It's not genius, but it's close.

I was thinking of putting up a video of Hotel California, but I changed my mind. So instead of that see below.

Also-rans: Actually there isn't an also-ran for E, but on the subject of wrong lyrics I give you Freed From Desire by Italian artist Gala. There is no power on this earth that will sway me from believing that she sings about her lover's "trombolese". Presumably it's a sort of musical instrument. Have a listen and see what you think.

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Friday, 4 April 2014

D is for Neil Diamond

Another artiste who remains unrepresented in my record collection. God, how old does that make me sound...record collection. Anyway, I have very fond memories linked to Neil Diamond's music and they stem from my first visit to Greece nearly 30 years ago.

Mrs C and I had gone to the island of Agistri in the Saronic Gulf. Very small, very quiet, very lovely. We got friendly with a Scottish couple also staying at our accommodation. Not sure, I think they might have been called Liz and Alan. They were a lovely couple, but they had a passion for Neil Diamond, which they felt the need to share.

Sometimes when we were sitting on the terrace having a drink served by the lovely Despina who ran our accommodation with her husband, Giorgos, Liz would produce a tape player (I told you it was the old days) and give us all an earful of Neil Diamond. All that lovely, atmospheric Greek music we could have had which would have placed us exactly where we were and we got Neil Diamond. No offence, Neil, and all of your fans, but your music ain't my cup of tea.

To further cement Neil Diamond's place in my musical memory bank we have to move on to Greek plumbing. It is a fact of life that in Greece, toilet paper does NOT go down the toilet, it goes in the little bin by the toilet. That's just the way it is. Liz, however, did not find this acceptable. She described the practice as "disgusting" and said she wasn't going to do it. Oh dear, not a good idea. The consequence was that we were quite often treated to the sight of Giorgos traipsing round to the back of the property with drain rods to clear another blockage in the pipes thanks to Liz's over-developed fastidiousness.

And somehow I have a vision of Giorgos doing that while a Neil Diamond song plays in the background. See if you can conjure up that mental picture while you have a listen.

With apologies to one very special person who I know really doesn't like this song. Despite that, the memories are good x.

Also-rans: Ian Dury and the Blockheads. A great bloke and a great band. He is much missed. One of the best gigs I ever went to was Ian Dury and the Blockheads at Canterbury Odeon, at the end of which the band threw bananas in to the audience. Indelibly printed on my memory.

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Thursday, 3 April 2014

C is for Cream

Cream, arguably the first supergroup, and so super they were named after the wonderful dairy product that we all love to pour on our puddings. If you think I've got that wrong, you could be right, but then memory can play tricks on us.

A relatively short entry, thus: At secondary school, I say to my friend Tony McCarthy (where are you now, Mac?) "I've got Disraeli Gears," to which he replies: "No, you wanker, they're called dérailleur gears." I was talking about the album by Cream, he was talking about the fancy gear system that we all aspired to have on our pushbikes. A simple misunderstanding, but somehow it has lodged in my memory. Why? I really couldn't say.

Here are a couple of illustrations to avoid such confusion in the future.

Also-rans: Eric Clapton, who was part of Cream. I loved, and still do, Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs by Derek and the Dominoes featuring Eric Clapton and long aspired to play the guitar just like him. But the nearest I've ever come to owning a guitar was entering a competition to win a Fender Stratocaster. I've never had a guitar, never had a lesson, don't even do very convincing air guitar, but I'd still like to play like Eric.

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Wednesday, 2 April 2014

B is for Beatles

Right, first off a couple of things. Number one, strictly speaking they were The Beatles, so it might be argued they, and countless other snazzy pop combos, should fit in at the letter T. Well not on this blog they don't, so save your breath, I'm not arguing about it.

Secondly, and this is where I might fall out with all sorts of people, I don't really like the Beatles. It's not that I can't stand the sound of them, but they just don't get me going. But that is not what this series of postings is about. It's about memories arising from music.

For the Beatles the memory is of me being aged about six or seven and charging round a small department store called Dawsons in Whitstable singing/bellowing She Loves You, which as some of you will recall, includes the chance to chant "Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!" The strange thing about this is that She Loves You was a major chart success in 1963 which was several years before my family moved to the Kent town of Whitstable. I can only conclude that I liked the Beatles enough in those days to commit some of their songs to my youthful memory.

Anyway, not a big fan of the Beatles, who were "just a band", and here's a song to show that.

Also-rans: James Brown performing Get Up Offa That Thing. Reason: I'd quite like this played at my funeral and when I've told people that, they've laughed, which makes me smile. So it's a strangely happy memory. I'd also like Bare Necessities from Disney's Jungle Book cartoon played at my funeral, but we can talk about that later, much later.

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Tuesday, 1 April 2014

A is for Abba

I don't possess any music by Abba and I have never seen the Swedish superstars perform, but they have a place in my musical memory bank because of where I now live.

The Greek island of Skopelos is where some of the Abba back-catalogue film Mamma Mia was shot and can loosely claim to be the mythical island of Kalokairi. So when I hear pretty well any Abba song I am reminded of Skopelos. It's a link which the island plays upon to a limited extent and there can't be many bars and tavernas which do not boast a photograph of Pierce Brosnan, one of Mamma Mia's stars, smiling away next to the owners of said bars and tavernas.

Strangely enough, in my strange cross-indexed list of musical associations, Abba also reminds me of The Stooges. For some reason I used to think that The Stooges' version of Louie Louie bore more than a passing resemblance to Abba's Name Of The Game. I no longer think that, but the association is still stuck in my mind.

For those of you who have been living in caves and are unaware of the song from which the film took its name, here it is:

Also-rans: AC/DC. Memory inspired by the Aussie rockers: Two Welsh blokes next to me at an AC/DC gig at Wembley stadium. They drank a colossal amount of cider and then vomited copiously creating a massive spew-delineated no-go area for everyone.

For more on the A to Z Challenge go to: