I’ve made some minor changes to the links over on the left, added a few new ones and got rid of some others. The main thing I’ve done is move Popular to the top because that’s where I’m spending a lot of online time these days. If you’re not reading Tom Ewing’s herculean and brilliant effort to review every UK Number One hit single then you should be, particularly as he’s up to 1980 now which is smack dab in the middle of what I consider “my” era, and probably a lot of yours too.

I couldn’t be so common as to post a song that got all the way to Number One on the charts, so instead here’s one from 1980 that only managed to get as far as #16. What a bloody great year it was, but I would say that wouldn’t I?

Download: You’ll Always Find Me In The Kitchen At Parties – Jona Lewie (mp3)


What the bloody hell is that racket?

I think that as a teenager you have a duty to play music that annoys your parents but my mother got off pretty lightly with me considering what I could have been listening to in the post-punk years. I played my fair share of noisy records but I think my tastes were relatively conventional compared to some of the more extreme and atonal stuff you’d hear on John Peel in the evenings which often sounded to me like someone dropping a piano on a cat. Even 30 years later the discordant din made by bands like Throbbing Gristle, Einstrzende Neubauten, The Pop Group and You’ve Got Foetus on Your Breath (what a delightful name that is) still sounds completely deranged and makes you go “What the fuck was that?” If I was blasting that sort of barmy racket out of my bedroom stereo I think my mother would have called for the men in the white coats to come and take me away. Though to give her credit one time I was playing “Atmosphere” by Joy Division very loudly and she stuck her head round my door and said “This is nice, who is it?” – but I guess “Atmosphere” is a very pretty record when you think about it.

But lest you think I was some nancy boy who couldn’t take the hard stuff I did occasionally dip my toe in the deep end of the post-punk pool like when I bought the hair-raising 1980 single “The Friend Catcher” by Australian terror noise merchants The Birthday Party. It opens with a wall of eardrum-splitting feedback and a monster guitar riff that sounds like the gates of hell opening, over which lead singer Nick Cave growls and yelps like someone who’s just escaped from the loony bin. Cave, of course, later had a very succesful solo career and made a record with Kylie Minogue. It’s completely batshit but brilliant and a record I still like today, something I can’t say about a lot of the weirder stuff I bought all those years ago. Not that I’d play it when my little girl was in the house, hearing this might scar the poor little lamb for life.

Download: The Friend Catcher – The Birthday Party (mp3)

He’s a real tasty geezer

I’m not sure who or what this Johnny Reggae bloke was supposed to be, with the lines about how he’s “grown his hair a bit but it’s smooth, not too long” and his “two-tone tonic strides” I’ve always pictured him as a Suedehead, but they didn’t wear “big white basketball boots” far as know, so maybe this is some other offshoot of Mod that I’m unaware of. But English youth cults can be hard to pin down sometimes, especially the whole Mod-Skinhead-Suedehead continuum where the differences between them can be measured in the width of a Ben Sherman shirt collar.

Download: Johnny Reggae – The Piglets (mp3)

For those that don’t know this was a famous one-hit wonder from 1971 and “he’s a real tasty geezer” became a popular phrase for years, at least round my way.

Oh Sugar

The name of Lynsey De Paul came up in the comments of the “Roll Away The Stone” post below (though she only did the “oh will do!” voice on the album version of it, which wasn’t the original recording as I said) which got me digging out some dusty old mp3s I keep in a shoebox in the back of the computer and pondering her for the first time in donkeys years, probably ever actually.

My first memory of Miss De Paul was seeing her on TOTP in 1973 singing her mopey ballad “Won’t Somebody Dance With Me?” which ended with Tony Blackburn saying “may I have the pleasure of this dance?” to her (fellow Radio One DJ Ed Stewart did it on the actual record). After that she mostly seemed to appear on Light Entertainment shows like The Two Ronnies and David Nixon, on the cover of Woman’s Own, writing the theme music for a sitcom and entering the Eurovision Song Contest so I always thought of her as a middle of the road, Radio 2 sort of artist, not quite Shirley Bassey but not exactly Suzi Quatro either. But listening to her early records I wonder if she could have had a more interesting career. The 1972 singles “Sugar Me” and “Getting A Drag” are both terrific piano-stomping pop songs with subversive edges (the former a not-so-subtle eupehmism for something filthy and the latter about having a transvestite boyfriend) and the airy ballad “Ivory Tower” sounds like early Kate Bush. In fact all these make it hard not to think she wasn’t an influence on our Kate.

Download: Sugar Me – Lynsey De Paul (mp3)
Download: Getting A Drag – Lynsey De Paul (mp3)
Download: Ivory Tower – Lynsey De Paul (mp3)

I was never one for waif-like blondes so Lynsey wasn’t really my type (though James Coburn, Sean Connery, Ringo Starr, George Best and Dudley Moore all thought she was right up their alley) and that beauty spot of hers was very distracting. She always merged in my mind with actress Anouska Hempel, another wispy blonde who I also imagined wearing big floppy hats and silk scarves while hanging out with the bohemian beautiful people down the Portobello Road. Still, I must admit she does look rather fetching (and Biba-esque) in this video for “Sugar Me”

Dream Come True

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
Martin Luther King, 1963

I drank quite a lot of Scotch last night so it’s all a bit of a blur after Obama won Ohio, that’s when I knew he was on his way to victory. The one thing that really stuck in my mind though was seeing Jesse Jackson crying his eyes out, this a guy who was standing next to Martin Luther King when he was shot so I can only imagine the emotion he was feeling.

When I uploaded this song yesterday I was worried that I was counting my chickens before they hatched, I’ve had enough elections break my heart in the past not to get too confident (I’m looking at you Neil Kinnock and John Kerry) but as Obama himself might say, sometimes you just have to believe.

Download: We’re A Winner – The Impressions (mp3)

Anyway, now that’s finally over I can get back to doing some actual work, including this damn blog.

Do The Right Thing

Not wanting to invite a barrage of nasty comments from the right wing loons in this country I was going to stay away from the election this year but I came to the conclusion that I just can’t ignore history when it’s happening around me. Or I hope it is if America does the right thing today and makes Barack Obama it’s first black President. So be a part of history, go and vote if you’re able.

Because of my love of soul music I became interested in the history of the Civil Rights movement in America and actually wrote my college thesis about the links between the two so I know a little bit about how much African-Americans have had to struggle to get to this point, so if he wins tonight I’ll be crying tears of joy and thinking of all the people who fought (and died) to make it possible.

The obvious musical choice today would have been “A Change Is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke but I felt like something a bit more upbeat.

Download: Young, Gifted and Black – Bob & Marcia (mp3)

But really, his skin colour is almost beside the point, he’s simply the best man for the job. And how great would it be to have a President who digs John Coltrane?