Down the ‘Pool

When I was at college I shared a house with a lad from Cheshire who was a Liverpool supporter, but despite that terrible character flaw he was a good bloke and we’re still friends today. Back then one of our favourite tv shows was Alan Bleasdale’s Liverpudlian comedy/drama “Scully” whose expression “DOUBLE YESSS!!” became a bit of a college-years catchphrase for us (ah, students). The show had a really terrific theme song by Elvis Costello — who also had a bit part in it as Scully’s retarded cousin — which ended up on the b-side of “I Wanna Be Loved” even though I think it was a much better record.

Pity it’s about a Liverpool supporter though. Come on you Blues!!!!!!!

Download: Turning The Town Red – Elvis Costello & The Attractions (mp3)

In case you’ve forgotten all about “Scully”, here’s a reminder.


Seasons come, seasons go

Though Spring officially started last week it’s still a bit nippy here, but you can feel the season’s change in the air. The sky is bluer, days are longer, lawns are turning green again, daffodils are sprouting, and everyone is waiting for that moment when they can shed their coats and jumpers and feel the sun on their faces again. Long, cold winters are tough but I wouldn’t miss that feeling of renewal for the world, it’s good for the soul and makes you appreciate the wonders of life and the passing of time even more.

For a change, here’s something fresh, new (-ish) and Spring-like from one of my favourite albums of last year.

Download: Blackbird – Rachel Unthank And The Winterset (mp3)
Buy: “The Bairns” (album)

Where’s the beef?

“On this occasion,” said Jack, “that’s exactly where you’re wrong. You’re all here as my guests, and you can order anything you like. The tab for this is being picked up by the British Leyland Motor Corporation, so expense is no object. Go for it, chaps. Let your imaginations run wild.
Roy ordered fillet steak and chips, Colin ordered fillet steak and chips, Bill ordered fillet steak, chips and peas, and Jack, who went to the South of France for his holidays, ordered fillet steak with chips, peas and mushrooms on the side, a touch of sophistication that was not lost on the others.”
Jonathan Coe
The Rotters Club

This little scene really captures the dismal state of English dining in the 1970s and the nation’s unsophisticated tastebuds in the days before any of us had ever heard of Balsamic Vinegar or Chilean Sea Bass and everyone’s idea of upmarket grub was steak — always with chips. I don’t want to come across like one of the Four Yorkshiremen or anything but I don’t think I even ate a steak until I was in my late teens (I mean a proper one, not some frozen Findus thing made out of unknown cow parts) and I don’t remember my mother ever cooking one at home, I assume because it was too expensive. I don’t think it was something anybody had at home back then, it was a luxury treat you had in a restaurant when you were “pushing the boat out” or if someone else was paying, like above, though back then “steak” usually meant a puny overcooked fillet served up in a Berni Inn or Angus Steak House.

I ate more “real” meat at school (though I dread to think where that Liver came from) than I did at home where my diet was 99% packaged, processed and artificially-flavoured: spam fritters, fish paste sandwiches, instant mash, Pot Noodles, Findus Crispy Pancakes (God knows what they were made from) tinned meat pies, boil-in-the-bag Cod, and “international cuisine” meant Vesta Instant Chow Mein which came in a box. Pudding was usually something powdered and instant (and totally artificial) like Angel Delight. We rarely went out to eat either (unless you count the Wimpy Bar) except for when my Dad took my sister and me out for the day and we’d have lunch at this Italian place in Kensington (which, amazingly, is still there) where he’d eat this weird thing called a Lasagne — he was sophisticated my old man, he’d been to Paris! — while I’d always have double egg and chips, a meal that still gives me a Proustian rush back to my childhood.

With all the tinned, frozen, instant, and boiled-in-the-bag rubbish we were eating in it’s no wonder we all looked so ill and pasty back then, the shit food adding to the general sickly air that seems to hang over the 1970s. Watch a TV show like The Sweeney and everyone looks like they smell of chip fat and ashtrays and has skin like an uncooked pork sausage (all that beige polyester didn’t help the complexion either).

But at least we were thin. I was surprised to find out that we actually ate more calories in the 1970s than we do today but we still looked like rickety runts, while the vast smorgasbord of cheap food and dining options we have now is creating a nation of obese tubbies. I don’t think it was because everyone was working out either, back then a gym was a place you only went when you were at school. Perhaps just getting through the day in 1970s England kept us slim, we didn’t spend all day on our bums in front of a computer and drive everywhere. So maybe the next slimming fad should be “The 1970s Diet”: wake up in a freezing cold flat, walk five miles to work, stand on your feet in a factory all day, carry your shopping home from the supermarket, eat a pile of spam fritters, instant mash and processed peas for tea, have a big bowl of Angel Delight, smoke twenty Rothman’s, and the weight will just fall off.

Download: Barbecue – Orange Juice (mp3)
Download: Bangers and Mash – Peter Sellers & Sophia Loren (mp3)

Junior Choice

She went for the singles this time

I posted that one a while ago, so how about the b-side instead?

Download: (There’s Always) Something On My Mind – The Pale Fountains (mp3)

Good choice, I think we’ll play both sides of that. Roddy Frame wasn’t much older than you when he wrote these.

Download: Just Like Gold – Aztec Camera (mp3)
Download: We Could Send Letters – Aztec Camera (mp3)

Really? That old chestnut? Oh, go on then.

Download: God Save The Queen – Sex Pistols (mp3)

Dilly Dally

Back in the 1980s the statue of Eros* which had stood in the center of Piccadilly Circus since 1893 was moved over to it’s present, less grand location on the corner outside The Criterion Theatre, apparently just to improve traffic flow through the area. I remember being really pissed off about this at the time and was surprised it didn’t cause more controversy — that was also around the time British Telecom got rid of our red phone boxes without any public consultation and that caused only a small ripple of protest too. It seemed just another example of how the character of the city I loved (and the whole country) was being ruined by the forces unleashed by Maggie Thatcher and everything had to be sacrificed at the altar of capitalist “progress” — in this case the growing number of cars that were taking over the city — so one of London’s most iconic and beautiful landmarks just got booted aside. Somehow I can’t imagine this happening in any other city in the world, it would be like the French shifting the Arc de Triomphe a little to the left so Parisians could get to the Champs Élysées a bit quicker.

Even though it happened 20 years ago Piccadilly Circus still looks “wrong” to me and poor old Eros seems a little diminished removed from it’s former pride of place in the centre. You probably can’t buy drugs there anymore either. Not that I ever did you understand, but it seemed that every time I sat there I was asked by some shady-looking bloke if I wanted to.

Anyway, that little rant was really just an excuse to post this track, a lovely tune that was on the b-side of the “Shout To The Top” 12″ single.

Download: The Piccadilly Trail – The Style Council (mp3)

*Yes, I know it’s actually a statue of Anteros but everyone calls it Eros.

Jazz Hands

The British aren’t exactly renowned for their jazz chops, we’ve produced a fair bit of talent in that area but, compared to the American giants, the ranks of Great British Jazzmen is a small club on a par with Important French Rock Bands or Great German Comedians. But Tubby Hayes was one of the few who could blow with the best of them anywhere in the world as he shows on this storming big band number which, pardon the expression, swings more than a Doberman’s balls.

Yes, I am aware that is the second reference to canine scrotum I’ve made this week. Just a strange coincidence I assure you.

Download: The Killers of W1 – Tubby Hayes Orchestra (mp3)
Buy: “Tubbs’ Tours” (album)

Photo from the Soho Nights exhibition.

As a little early Something For The Weekend extra, here’s a great clip of him doing it live. For a bunch of guys who look like librarians and school teachers they’re really cooking.

Sleeve Talk

On a whim the other day I dug out my copy of David Bowie’s “Diamond Dogs” album to play for the first time in donkey’s years and looking at the sleeve reminded me just how freaky Bowie used to look and how I was a little creeped out by him when I was a kid. With his bony frame, dodgy eyes, wonky teeth, milk-bottle pallor and outlandish costumes he looked like a zombie in a gay horror film. I still remember back in 1973 going round a friend’s house after school and his older sister had just bought a copy of “Aladdin Sane” which he got out to show me and we both stared at the sleeve photos — especially the one on the inside gatefold — as if we were sneaking a peek at his Dad’s porn magazines, something about it looked a bit pervy and illicit. Sounds silly I know but I was only 10, and I loved science fiction too but Bowie seemed to be coming from a far weirder place than Star Trek.

Of all the iconic images on his 1970s sleeves the one on the front of “Diamond Dogs” is probably the freakiest, showing Bowie as some mutant half human-half dog stretching out across the gatefold like a depraved Ray Harryhausen creation. The original version of the painting was even more perverted with the dog half of Bowie proudly displaying his meat and two veg like a centerfold in Dog Fancy magazine, but when record label execs saw early proofs they worried that some shops wouldn’t carry it so the poor old dog was neutered by having his todger airbrushed out.

The cover was painted by Belgian artist Guy Peellaert who had just published a book of paintings called “Rock Dreams” which depicted various rock legends (Dylan, Sam Cooke, Hank Williams, Bowie himself) in fantasy settings. Bowie saw an exhibition of the paintings at Biba and commissioned Peellaert to do the cover which apparently ticked off Mick Jagger as he was after him to do The Stones next album too. In the end Peellaert did both “Diamond Dogs” and “It’s Only Rock and Roll” that year, though Bowie beat them to the shops by several months and his cover is far more striking. Take that, Mick.

“Diamond Dogs” was Bowie’s last Glam Rock album and his last proper rock album of any kind for the rest of the decade and I think it’s fallen through the cracks in his catalogue between his Ziggy pomp and the Thin White Duke/Berlin era and doesn’t get the attention they do which is a shame as I think it’s a better album than “Aladdin Sane” — though I’ll resist the temptation to call it the dog’s bollocks.

Download: Big Brother/Chant of the Ever Circling Skeletal Family – David Bowie (mp3)
Buy: “Diamond Dogs” (album)