Tuesday, 20 March 2018

The Hot 100 Countdown #92

Henry Gray released his latest album, 92, last year... so named, because that's how old he is. Let's hope he's got many more albums to come.

As for 92 songs though... what did you suggest?

Well, everyone has learned to keep away from years now, which is very good, but it does mean we can't have the excellent '92 Subaru by Fountains Of Wayne. Shame, but the FoW boys won Number 95, so they've had their moment.

Another one I'd have had to disqualify if you'd suggested it would have been 992 Arguments by The O'Jays. Pity, because that's a cracker too. Great lyrics.

Nobody even suggested B92 by Saint Etienne, which featured here not too long ago on My Top Ten Postcode Songs.

C was first to jump in with a proper suggestion, but it was my second place choice this week... 92 Degrees by Siouxsie & The Banshees. What I love about this song is that it begins with a quote from one of my favourite 50s Sci Fi movies, It Came From Outer Space...

"Did you know, Putnam, that more murders are committed at 92 Fahrenheit than any other temperature? I read an article once. Lower temperatures, people are easygoing. Over 92, it's too hot to move. But just 92, people get irritable"

But it was another 92 Degrees that clinched the title this week, and for the second time in this competition, Alyson & Rigid Digit shared the points. I'll let RD do the introduction, because he nailed it...

"A fine slab of Black Country Grungey-Grebo-Samply-Rap(ish)-Indie..." 

Next week... I may have to use a year song. But it won't be a remix or anything like that. It also won't be what you expect... but I'm willing to have my mind changed if you can come up with a better suggestion. Go for it!

Monday, 19 March 2018

46 Years Ago Today...

...this was Number One in the hit parade. It's a wonderfully melodramatic performance of a hugely emotive song, written by Pete Ham and Tom Evans of Badfinger and originally released on their 1970 album, No Dice. Their version's pretty low-key compared to Harry Nilsson's "shatter the wine glasses" remake... only Mariah Carey managed to ever take the song one step further into undiluted histrionics... though most rational people understand deep down in their heart of hearts that her version is utter pants, and an insult to Nilsson's memory. She also managed to turn the track into a perennial X-Factor stalwart... for which there can be no forgiveness.

Harry Nilsson was a hugely talented singer-songwriter in his own right, so it's somewhat disappointing that the song he's most remembered for isn't one of his own. He certainly wrote and recorded far better songs... but none quite so popular and all-encompassing. That's not to say I don't like Without You, and I certainly believe his to be the definitive performance.

Despite winning the Ivor Novello award for Without You, the song led only to tragedy for its writers. After Badfinger's business manager ran off with all their money in 1975, lead singer Pete Ham hung himself. He was almost 28, and about to become a father. Eight years later, still mourning his former bandmate, Without You's co-writer Tom Evans also hung himself over a dispute over the royalties.

Harry Nilsson struggled to match the single's success, despite critical glories for subsequent releases. (I've got every Nilsson album - and there's some great material in there.) He went on to work on an album with his old friend John Lennon, but ruptured a vocal chord during the recording.

Nilsson also owned a flat in Mayfair, London, where two tragic rock 'n' roll deaths occurred. Mama Cass died in her sleep while staying there in 1974 (she did not choke on a ham sandwich: that's a cruel urban legend). Four years later, The Who's Keith Moon took an overdose there. Nilsson wasn't present for either death, but he sold the flat soon after (to Pete Townshend, of all people!), believing it cursed.

Conspiracy theorists might well argue the same about this song...

(Nilsson quit the music industry in 1980 following John Lennon's death. He died of a heart attack in 1994... while recording his "comeback" album.)

Without You was Number One on the day I was born.

Today, I'm working a 12 hour shift, starting with my worst class of the week.

"I've come to wish you an unhappy birthday," as some infamous northern miserablist once sang...

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Saturday Snapshots #24 - The Answers

Sorry, I wasn't around on Saturday night this week to do the scoring. Answers only, then...

I'll try to give credit where credit is deserved in the comments later...

10. When Harry met Karen, he was still a virgin. A good snog sorted that out.

Harry Chapin + Karen Carpenter + The Virgin Mary...

Mary Chapin-Carpenter - Passionate Kisses

9. Crossing the snow while getting down: that would be my desire.

Skee-lo - I Wish

8. A Scottish thief  gets your sleeping quarters ready.

Ian McNabb - You Must Be Prepared To Dream

7. They failed Humpty Dumpty: the FBI were brought in to investigate their strong-arm tactics.

All the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put Humpty together again.

Strong arm = Armstrong (Louis)

The Kingsmen were investigated by the FBI who suspected the lyrics to Louie Louie were either subversive or pornographic. They were actually just gibberish, as Todd Snider explains here.

The Kingsmen - Louie Louie

6. An open invitation to boogie from Texas.

Whitney Houston - I Wanna Dance With Somebody

5. Calling myself a testicle. ID required.

Apparently, Kloot is Dutch slang for testicle.

I Am Kloot - Proof

4. Woken up early by repeated bangs.

Dawn (featuring Tony Orlando, of course) - Knock Three Times

3. Hit in the gob with burnt feet.

Smashmouth - Walking On The Sun

2. Listening to The Knack, Toto and Hall & Oates on the wireless while cutting a Roman into four.

The Knack, Toto and Hall & Oates all recorded songs called Africa.

Latin Quarter - Radio Africa

1. Girls want them... but not every evening.

Thanks for playing. More next week.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Saturday Snapshots #24

Don't be Blue - it's Saturday Snapshots time!

Identify ten artists and ten songs from the clues below, please...

10. When Harry met Karen, he was still a virgin. A good snog sorted that out.

9. Crossing the snow while getting down: that would be my desire.

8. A Scottish thief  gets your sleeping quarters ready.

7. They failed Humpty Dumpty: the FBI were brought in to investigate their strong-arm tactics.

6. An open invitation to boogie from Texas.

5. Calling myself a testicle. ID required.

4. Woken up early by repeated bangs.

3. Hit in the gob with burnt feet.

2. Listening to The Knack, Toto and Hall & Oates on the wireless while cutting a Roman into four.

1. Girls want them... but not every evening.

Answers on a Chelsea mor... sorry, I meant Sunday morning.

Friday, 16 March 2018

Radio Songs #28: Radio Sweetheart

Continued due to popular demand... and because I haven't had time to write anything else for today...

My first date then, was with a traffic girl. Now, immediately, if you've never worked in radio, you've probably got the wrong end of the stick. When you think of the word "traffic" in relation to the wireless, you probably think of traffic and travel reports, which are the bread and butter of local radio in terms of clinging onto listeners. But traffic also has another meaning in radio - "commercial trafficking" - specifically the scheduling of adverts and promotional material throughout the day to meet the needs of advertisers (who, for example, will pay more to have their ads played at peak times such as breakfast and evening drive) and also avoid embarrassing clashes (such as having the ads of two competing double-glazing companies run back-to-back in the same break).

Those (three) of you who are following this series with interest may remember that by this time I was finally getting paid to work in radio, and the money came from sitting in the studio and sorting out split ad breaks for the presenters. It would also involve liaising with the Commercial Traffic department to sort out any problems with those breaks. And occasionally, it would involve popping into the Comprod (Commercial Production) studio to get carts repaired... which involved approaching one of the most grumpiest and surliest men in the building... who would later become one of my best friends in the industry. (A good job, as I ended up working in Comprod myself for many years. Ironically, we were both made redundant at the same time. I'm a teacher now, he's a trolley dolly - his term! - with a large airline. Time may change us, but we can't change time.)

The welcome I received in Traffic was much warmer than the one I received in Comprod though, particularly from one of the two young ladies who worked in there. She was also the one who brought us the new ad log in at the end of the day and I started to make a point of nipping out into the corridor at roughly the time she did this so I could "bump into her" and exchange a pleasant chat with a pretty girl. (I wonder if in this day and age this would be considered "stalking"... and I'm reminded of Alyson's story of how she contrived a similar meeting with the man she ended up marrying... but I do hope not. That kind of behaviour is a minefield though, and I'm glad it's a minefield I don't have to lose limbs to on a regular basis any more.)

As the lady in question seemed more than happy to smile and chat (dare I say 'flirt'?) with me, soon enough the inevitable happened. I was smitten.

There were only two problems:

1) My inexperience in the dating arena and intrinsic low self-esteem (masked, as always, by sarcasm and self-deprecating wit).

2) She had a boyfriend.

2.1) And not just any boyfriend.

2.2) He was a jock at the station.

2.3) He was also (subjective opinion) a bit of a dick.

To be continued...

28. Elvis Costello - Radio Sweetheart

Not the first radio song most people will think of when they consider Mr. Costello, but I'm saving the more obvious one for a very specific story later in the series, the tale of how I almost got fired because of Robbie Williams.

Radio Sweetheart was originally recorded by a pre-Attractions Elvis Costello and released as the b-side of his debut single, Less Than Zero. His backing band at the time was made up of members of the American group Clover - some of whom would go on to join Huey Lewis's News (Huey was also a member of Clover but didn't work with Elvis here). Others went on to join the Doobie Brothers and Tommy Tutone. This song has become a fan favourite and has been included as a bonus track on the many re-issues of Elvis's debut album, My Aim Is True. To me, it has a country vibe which lays the way for his later album, Almost Blue (a live version is also included on my reissue of that album).

Thursday, 15 March 2018

My Top Ten Professor Stephen Hawking Songs

We lost a true genius yesterday. And I don't mean Jim Bowen. (Still, RIP, Jim. Any other day, I might have done a Bullseye Top Ten.)

I don't pretend to understand most of what Professor Stephen Hawkings wrote... but I'm glad he was writing it. Here are ten songs to mark his passing...

Special mentions to MC Hawking, Pink Floyd's Talkin' Hawkin' and Carl Sagan featuring Stephen Hawkings - A Glorious Dawn.

10. Barenaked Ladies - A History Of Everything

The theme tune to the sitcom The Big Bang Theory seems an appropriate track to begin with... especially since Stephen Hawking was a guest star on that show.

Our whole universe was in a hot, dense state
Then nearly fourteen billion years ago expansion started, wait
The earth began to cool, the autotrophs began to drool
Neanderthals developed tools
We built a wall (we built the pyramids)
Math, science, history, unraveling the mysteries
That all started with the big bang! Hey!

9. Yes - Real Love

Pretentious, portentous prog has never seemed so appropriate...

Get the fire, as the flame it burns,
Get the wind as it slowly turns.
Get the earth...
Get the sky...

Far away, in the depths of Hawking's mind
To the animal, primalistic grind,
You bring me reason, a simple fact of life.

8. Misty's Big Adventure - Black Hole

Excuse the ropey live version on youtube: I had to find room for this despite that.

7. Weezer - Da Vinci

Forget A Brief History of Time - if you get a mention in a Weezer song, you'll live forever!

Even Da Vinci couldn't paint you
Stephen Hawking can't explain you
Rosetta Stone could not translate you
I'm at a loss for words...

6. Chris Bell - I Am The Cosmos

Let's face it: he was the cosmos.

5. Manic Street Preachers - Me & Stephen Hawking

Personally, I think this is as close as the Manics ever got to writing a nonsense song. Professor Hawking was renowned for his sense of humour though, so he'd probably appreciate that.

Overjoyed, me and Stephen Hawking, we laugh
We missed the sex revolution
When we failed the physical

4. Muse - Supermassive Black Hole

Probably my favourite Muse song... and there aren't many.

3. Cake - Frank Sinatra

This Cake classic begins with a reference to Cosmic Background Radiation...

We know of an ancient radiation
That haunts dismembered constellations

...wherein, according to New Scientist, Stephen Hawking's initials can be found... along with a phoenix, a donkey, a parrot and a deer.

Whether you believe that or not, the radiation emitted by black holes has apparently been christened Hawking Radiation.

2. Radiohead - Fitter, Happier

For a time, some people believed that the robotic vocals on this track from OK Computer(scientifically proven to be Radiohead's best album) were delivered by Stephen Hawking himself. Others believed it was just Thom Yorke speaking through a voice synthesizer to make him sound a little warmer and more human than usual. Turns out the former is closer to the truth: the vocals were actually delivered by Fred Cooper, the man who gave voice to Apple's voice synthesizing programme... the one that became most famous as the voice of Professor Hawking.

1. Soundgarden - Black Hole Sun

The first song that occurred to me when I thought about doing this Top Ten is probably the one that has least to do with Professor Stephen Hawking... but it's still a tremendous noise.

Provide A Brief History of Your Suggestions in the comments, please.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Radio Songs #27: You Turn Me On...

It's been a while since I did one of these, mainly because they take more time than other posts to get right, but also because I knew this next chapter would be a tricky one.

Workplace relationships / "romances" are unavoidable, I guess. I had three (plus a few near misses) during the time I worked in radio, but this is the only one I'm going to write about. The others... well, one was sweet but tragic (for me), the other was insane. Truly, truly insane. In that if I began to write about it, you would not believe me. And if I told you the story of how it ended, you would call me a liar. If I wrote it up as a film script, it would be rejected for being too far fetched. Sometimes truth is way, way weirder than fiction. Sorry to be a tease, but that's the truth.

Writing about relationships also involves breaking confidences: sharing details that others would probably not wish to be made public... even in a forum with as limited a readership as this. And, of course, it's deeply subjective. So I won't be doing it. I make an exception here because it's such a slight thing that probably meant very little to the other party involved... even though it was quite significant to me. Because it involves my first ever date...

I never went out with anyone in High School, nor in the Sixth Form. All my friends had had relationships of one kind or another by the time they finished their A Levels, but I never had the self-confidence to make the first move and usually ended up fancying people who wouldn't have been seen dead out in public with a loser like me. (The closest I got to asking a girl out - and I really thought she liked me - was getting my best friend to sound her out. He worded it rather badly though and it turned out she thought he was the one doing the asking... which she'd have been more than up for. He wasn't though, and that just left three people feeling uncomfortable, rather than the usual two. I wouldn't recommend it as an approach strategy.)

Look at that - four paragraphs and I haven't even got to the story. I'm sure I can string this one out over multiple posts, if only so I can link to more Radio Romance songs. Like this one from Tiffany... erm, I mean, Joni...

27. Joni Mitchell - You Turn Me On, I'm A Radio

The A&R man said he didn't hear a single when it came to Joni's fifth album, For The Roses, so Joni did what Bruce did on Dancing In The Dark and wrote a song about being told to write a hit. On the surface, this is a love song, and Joni was hip to the fact that radio stations jump at the chance to play songs that celebrate their medium... but it also manages the neat trick of simultaneously praising radio while also being cryptically critical of it at the same time. Pretty clever...

Waving for you
Broadcasting tower
Waving for you
And I'm sending you out
This signal here
I hope you can pick it up
Loud and clear

I know you don't like weak women
You get bored so quick
And you don't like strong women
'Cause they're hip to your tricks
It's been dirty for dirty
Down the line

But you know
I come when you whistle
When you're loving and kind
If you've got too many doubts
If there's no good reception for me
Then tune me out, 'cause honey
Who needs the static?

It hurts the head
And you wind up cracking
And the day goes dismal
From "Breakfast Barney"
To the sign-off prayer

And it worked too, giving Joni her first Top Ten single in her native Canada and her first Top 40 in the U.S. See: writing about radio is all you need to do to be a success!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...