The Yule Blog

Every year the wife and I alternate spending Christmas between my family and hers. Unfortunately it’s not really a fair exchange as my family live in London — The Greatest City In The World – while hers are in a small, rural North Carolina town that isn’t so much in the middle of nowhere, more like the remote outskirts of nowhere. You know those movies where the hip and sophisticated couple from the big city get stranded in some nothing-happening small town where they don’t have a Starbucks and have never heard of Sushi but learn important life lessons about the honest values of simple country folk? Well, it’s a bit like that except the only lesson we’ll probably be learning is that Barack Obama is a Muslim socialist out to destroy America.

But, apart from the whiff of right-wing craziness, they’re nice people and I’m looking forward to going because the great thing about being somewhere where there’s nothing to do is, well, doing nothing. I’ve had at stressful time at work lately and a week spent just sitting back in their Laz-y-Boy recliner and reading books, watching movies, doing a bit of writing, and taking lots of naps will be better than Zen meditation for clearing my head of all the bullshit. If we can avoid talking politics it should be a very nice week, especially if the wife’s black-sheep-of-the-family cousin shows up with some of his homemade moonshine.

I won’t be back until the New Year so have a good holiday everyone, hope Father Christmas brings you everything you want.

Download: Father Christmas – The Kinks (mp3)


The Ladette

If I should pass out, think only this of me;
That there’s some piss-stained corner of a town centre
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a smell of sick and curry;
And a Ladette whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her knickers to lower, her flesh to bare,
A body of England’s breathing English air,
Washed by the lager, snogged by yobs of home

And think, this girl, all dignity shed away,
Bladdered out of her mind, no less
Pukes up on her shoes the vodkas by bartenders given;
Head swimming, dreams of greasy takeaway,
And laughter, boys giving it large, sirens and broken glass;
On the piss, under an English heaven.

(Apologies to Rupert Brooke)

Download: Saturday Night Beneath The Plastic Palm Trees – Leyton Buzzards (mp3)

The Likely Lasses

When Bananarama first ambled onto the scene in 1981 with their backcombed hair and second-hand clothes even Nostradamus couldn’t have predicted that they’d go on to become one of the most successful British girl groups of all time and have more hits than The Supremes, mostly because that didn’t seem to be the sort of ambition that entered their heads. Like Joanne and Susan in The Human League (who were Top Shop to Bananarama’s Camden Market), they came across like ordinary girls who were pop stars by accident and thought making records was just a bit of a laugh.

Their first single “Aie A Mwana” was basically just a demo they made for fun with former Sex Pistol Paul Cook (with him producing and playing drums) who they’d met in a club one night and ended up crashing at his flat. It became an underground club hit which got them their picture in The Face where it was seen by Terry Hall who liked the way they looked and asked them to sing backing vocals on Fun Boy Three’s “Ain’t What You Do (It’s The Way That You Do It)”. In return they appeared on the girl’s next single, a cover of The Velvelettes “Really Saying Something” and it’s b-side “Give Us Back Our Cheap Fares” a rather strange instrumental co-written by the girls and Vaughan Toulouse of Department S (in case you didn’t know the title is a reference to this.)

Download: Really Saying Something (12″ version) – Bananarama & Fun Boy Three (mp3)
Download: Give Us Back Our Cheap Fares (12″ version) – Bananarama & Fun Boy Three (mp3)

That was a big hit as was the follow-up “Shy Boy” which even though it was more polished they still managed to sound like the three scatty girls living in the flat above you who were always running out of milk instead of proper pop stars. They didn’t lose that easy-going, slightly scruffy charm until they started making glossy Eurodisco with Stock, Aitken & Waterman in 1986 which sold by the ton but could have been sung by anybody really. Shame, but I guess they couldn’t stay those three girls forever. The b-side “Don’t Call Us” was their own composition and is just as good as the hit side, proof that they weren’t quite the amateurs they seemed and were getting the hang of this pop music lark.

Download: Shy Boy (12″ version) – Bananarama (mp3)
Download: Don’t Call Us (12″ version) – Bananarama (mp3)

To their credit they never used their looks or flashed any flesh to sell a few more records even though they were obviously rather fetching young ladies and most right-thinking blokes had a thing for one of other of them. With me it was a toss-up between Siobhan and Keren though if you put a gun to my head I would have gone with the latter. I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say they were sort of girls you could actually imagine going out with either, at least in the early days. I did know a lot of girls who dressed like them back then, pretty indie girls in baggy vintage clothes and deck shoes who were into Orange Juice but also loved dancing. I even went out with one of them — a pretty dancing indie girl that is, not one of Bananarama, though on a good day I reckon I could have been in with a shout with Keren. OK, on a really good day and if she’d had a lot to drink.

I have two twelve inches

Lucky me! A pair of Acid Jazz beauties that take me back to clubbing in London in the early 90s before I split the scene for America. One of these you’ll probably know, the other is a bit more obscure but another belter (and produced by Mick Talbot).

Download: Apparently Nothin’ – Young Disciples (mp3)
Download: Jus’ Reach – Galliano (mp3)

I have twelve inches

Two boxes full of them in fact (ha!) which I was rummaging through the other day digging out some long-unplayed beauties like this one. I’m up to my tits at work this week so I can’t finish off the meatier posts I’m writing at the moment (all two of them), but I hope this will do for now. Another tomorrow maybe.

Download: Too Nice To Talk To (Dubweiser) – The Beat (mp3)

They never had it so good

Though the phrase “Crisis? What Crisis?” was most famously used as a headline by The Sun during the Winter of Discontent in 1979 and was the title of a Supertramp album before that, I think it was first used on this cover of The Economist dated August 12, 1972. I don’t know what the story was about but knowing the era I imagine it was another economic or industrial disaster of some kind.

The funny thing about this cover is I assume we’re supposed to think the family are enjoying a life of languid pleasure, the idle working classes sunning themselves on the beach while the country goes down the shitter. And they have a radio! Luxury! Grandad in particular looks very happy stretched out in the sun. But looking at it now all I can think is how bloody uncomfortable and miserable they seem (well, apart from Grandad) sitting on that hot, pebbly beach fully-clothed, and with their six grubby kids they look more like a vagrant gypsy family than happy-go-lucky workers living off the fat of the land with their consumer electronics. Was this the best The Economist could do, or was life so bad in 1972 that people looked at that picture and thought “Lucky bastards”?

But at least in the summer of 1972 they would have this trio of (appropriate) hits to listen to on their fancy radio while they fried on the hot pebbles. I bet they’re not wearing any suntan lotion either and poor old mum will have to rub cold Calomine on their raw red skin when they get home.

Download: Automatically Sunshine – The Supremes (mp3)
Download: Sea Side Shuffle – Terry Dactyl & The Dinosaurs (mp3)
Download: School’s Out – Alice Cooper (mp3)

The Alice Cooper would probably have made Grandad wake from his snooze and say “What the bloody hell is this racket? Put on Jimmy Young!”