The Top Shelf

This Playboy from December 1978 was the first girlie magazine I ever bought, a rite of passage for a young man only slightly less stressful and potentially humiliating than getting your hands on a real naked woman for the first time. I was 16 at the time which meant buying it was not only nerve-wracking but also illegal and I can still remember the superhuman effort it took to work up the courage to go in the shop (first making sure there were no other customers), quickly grab it from the top shelf and take it to the counter. “This please” I said, placing the magazine in front of the shopkeeper, trying to act as nonchalantly and cooly grown-up as I could while inside my heart was pounding like a hammer, thinking that any second now he’s going to ask me how old I am (or worse), or some woman is going to come into the shop and see what I was buying which would make me die of embarrassment. I swear I wouldn’t have been surprised if an alarm went off, a steel cage dropped down on me, and armed police stormed in to drag me out to the street for a public shaming.

Though Playboy was relatively tame and almost respectable compared to some other magazines it shared top shelf space with, that didn’t make me feel any less of a dirty little pervert (albeit an exhilarated and excited one ā€” I did it! I bought one!) so when I got home I hid it in my bedroom cupboard under my comics, as you do. My mother had once told me she’d be more worried about me if I didn’t have any girlie magazines but I certainly didn’t want her to know I’d got it, all the therapy in the world wouldn’t have cured me of that particular mortification.

But while I vividly remember buying it I’m not sure now what made me want that particular issue so much, you’d think all that heart-pounding stress would have been for a woman I seriously fancied but Farrah Fawcett was my least favourite of Charlie’s Angels and I certainly didn’t care about NFL cheerleaders, only having the vaguest idea what those even were in the first place. Maybe it was the Gunter Grass short story. Yes, that must be it, I was buying it for the articles.

Oddly enough, I’ve never had any embarrassment problem buying condoms and never felt in the slightest bit nervous going into Boot’s, picking up a packet of Durex and handing over my money to even the most stern-headmistress type woman there. Maybe it was because one purchase proudly declares “Yes! I am a virile and desirable man who plans to have sex very soon!” while the other is a sad admission you have no chance of getting any for the foreseeable future ā€” which was pretty much the story of my life when I was 16.

Download: Boys Will Be Boys – The Undertones (mp3)


New Monday

I’m always getting emails from bands, record labels, and PR firms plugging their new releases in the hope that I’ll mention them on this here blog, often with links to free mp3s. On the one hand it’s flattering that they think I’m worthy of notice or could create anything resembling “buzz” for them (Ha! they should see my site stats) but on the other it’s a bit insulting because if they actually read the blog they would know that 99% of the time I only write about old-timey music.

So I usually ignore them – no payola here! – but I got one from some British DJs called Club Clique about their remix of Lana Del Rey’s “Video Games” which is one of my favourite singles of the year so I was curious enough to give it a listen. Remixes often ruin a song for me, some cocky DJ banging a Techno beat over something without any thought or originality, but blow me down if this isn’t bloody great, turning the moody original into soaring, glittering disco which you wouldn’t think would work but it does, spectacularly well. So sod it, I’m giving it a plug.

Download: Video Games (Club Clique For The Bad Girls Remix) – Lana Del Rey (mp3)

More Club Clique remixes and mixtapes here and if you’re ever in Manchester and feel like a boogie pop along to their club.

The New Jerusalem

This photograph is like the 1980s captured in one shot, full of so many signifiers of the era it could be a tableaux staged by some conceptual artist as a commentary on the decade of greed and flash.

I don’t know where the picture was taken but it looks like the typical suburban home of the newly-property-owning, Thatcher-voting class known as Essex Man. The building work is a sign of the re-make/re-model boom years and the sports car (red, probably) an obvious symbol of gaudy, flaunting-it, Loadsamoney success and excess ā€” a major upgrade from the owner’s previous XR3i and paid for with the profit from selling British Gas shares.

Sitting on the bonnet is the dream girlfriend (after Samantha Fox anyway), Page 3 stunna Linda Lusardi looking like the archetypal Essex Girl with her frizzy perm, short skirt, tan legs and white high heels, all dressed up for a night out at Stringfellow’s.

This is the new England that Maggie created where the past has been dumped in a skip and future is brand-new, turbo-charged, is having an extension built, and has big tits.

Download: Goodbye 70s – Yazoo (mp3)

Something for the Weekend

This song used to scare the crap out of me when I was a kid. Test tube babies! Withered limbs! Judgement Day! It was nothing like the future I saw on Thunderbirds.

I picked up an old Zager & Evans album on vinyl a few years ago just for this track but my God the rest of it was rubbish, a horrible Folky-Psychedelic stew with social commentary lyrics that would embarrass your average pretentious Sixth Former. This is still a great record though, silly though it might be.