Saturday, 18 November 2017

Saturday Snapshots #9

Say cheese... or cheesy!

Ten clues to ten great songs by ten great artists. Who can guess them first?

10. Len met Adam x 2. Said hi to drugs from a witch doctor.

9. Restaurant for birds: glue on the menu.

8. Hayes goes feminine on the road to the Cathedral: won't stop listening to Bruce's longest player.

7. The Amarillo Hulk avoids the Flaming Lips' postman.

6. Spock's killer loses her pliers while sympathising with Prince.

5. Find your fortune in Motown and you'll always stay warm.

4. The 18th provost makes you a suit despite being hunted by Harrison.

3. The sound made by a feuerwehrauto, after almost a century of hot air.

2. Go to the chemist for gender realignment.

1. Scared by basic Maths? Be polite to Quincy.

The only question remaining...

How long will it take Martin to get them all?

Thursday, 16 November 2017

NEW ENTRY: Hoge's Hero

Number #6 on My Top Ten Albums of 2015 was Will Hoge's last record, Small Town Dreams. At the time I loved the mix of sophisticated Americana with 80s Ameri-rock flashback: hints of Bruce, Mellencamp, Petty and more. Since then, I've been looking forward to whatever Hoge did next... and here it is.

Anchors is a more mature, contemporary record - straight down the middle Americana which owes a lot to Jason Isbell's current style. But just as before, Hoge's songwriting stands out. There's a maturity of detail to the lyrics that easily makes him worthy of mention in the same paragraph as Isbell...and to be honest, this stripped down, bombast-free set will probably appeal more to the musos among you than his last record.

Stand-out track at the moment is this one, the story of a marriage gone wrong, staying together for the kids... the sort of everyday mundanity it's hard to romanticise, yet Hoge makes it quietly heartbreaking.
You go to bed early and darlin' I'll stay up late
Come to the morning the kids are already awake
Get 'em dressed, get 'em breakfast, out the door and on the bus
Hope they don't see these walls building up between us

I drive to work in this rusted out pickup truck
Coffee steams in the holder
I'm torn between staying and just giving up
Sometimes I sit in this parking lot and I just cry
And wonder how the hell this became our life

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

My Top Ten Kitten Songs

This is Millie, the new addition to our family. Too soon? I did think so... but I've been proved wrong. A welcome blast of sunshine and fun in these darkest of times...

The big problem with songs about kittens is that they're rarely actually about kittens. Kitten, is seems, is a popular metaphorical term of endearment, and just about the only song on this list which appears to be about an actual kitten is about a dead one. So I'm not dedicating any of these to Millie. Ten great songs, nevertheless...

10. Bellowhead - Moon Kittens

Bellowhead go John Williams. Better than that might sound.

9. Whitesnake - Kitten's Got Claws

The thing about Whitesnake was, around about the time this came out, they were showing their kitten side more than their claws. Power ballads had taken them into the charts and their metal beginnings were all but forgotten. This was them showing they still had their claws. You won't like it, it ain't cool, but it did the job for teenage rock fans back in the mid 80s.

Can you believe this is the first time Whitesnake have featured on this blog? I can't.

8. The Kelley Deal 6000 - When He Calls Me Kitten

What Kelley did when she got out of rehab.

7. Lily Rae & The Saturday Girls - Little Kittens

Dark and creepy - Nick Cave would be proud. From Lily's debut record, available on The Indelicates' Corporate Records label. Since then she's gone on to form the band Fightmilk: also worthy of your attention.

Don't forget that little kittens have the sharpest claws!

6. Hefner - Hello Kitten

Another song about...
I'm gonna make myself go blind tonight
...well, not kittens.

5. British Sea Power - Electrical Kittens

I've featured this here before, but no reason not to do so again. My favourite song from the latest BSP album.

4. REM - Star Me, Kitten

I guess that should be **** Me, Kitten... or @%$# Me, Kitten. It's one of those songs that sounds beautiful, but if you study the lyrics you'll choke on the metaphors. Of course, you could also scare yourself half to death with the REM & William S. Burroughs version...

3. Riff Raff - Kitten

Billy Bragg and Wiggy, back when they were still in short pants.

2. Angelica - Why Did You Let My Kitten Die?

Forgotten noughties indie from half of The Lovely Eggs. Indie-girly-pop loveliness with a sting in the tail.

1. Little Willie John - Leave My Kitten Alone

"Laying in the back seat, listening to Little Willie John..."

Yes, it was Elvis Costello who introduced this song to me... but it was Robbie Robertson who introduced me to Little Willie. And the original has added meows!

Any cuddly kitten songs in your collection?

Monday, 13 November 2017

My Top ∞ Radio Songs #23: What Are You Going To Do With Your Life?

I worked on the Saturday morning show for two years while I completed my 'A' Levels, by the end of which I was virtually co-presenting the show... although it'd take another year or so to get my name on the schedule. I still wasn't getting paid, but then I was only in the building for three hours a week.

However, it was reaching the point now where I had to answer that crucial question above. Many of my friends had applied for university, yet although I was on track for good 'A' Level grades (I ended up with 2 Bs, a C and an E... in Art... so I guess that ruled out drawing comics for a living) I was adamant I didn't want to follow them. It was the old story: if you've been reading this blog for a while, you may have come to recognise the fatal character flaw I had as a teenager... I never wanted to do what everybody else was doing. Partly that was because I thought I was destined for bigger things, things I didn't need Higher Education for (after all, Steve Wright still hadn't replied to my demo tape... and my debut novel would surely be in bookshops by the middle of the 90s) and partly, if I'm brutally honest, it was parochial fear. Upping sticks from the safe, comfy, loving and supportive home my parents had always provided me felt too risky. I wasn't the most independent of teenagers, and certainly not rebellious in the traditional sense. I didn't believe I was born to run... I was born to stay where I was.

The 6th form careers adviser despaired of me. He'd have happily helped me fill out my UCAS form, but all I wanted to do was carry on working in radio. (And tinker with the writing on the side.) Of course, there wasn't actually a job going at the station where I worked... but yes, they could probably find me some more voluntary work during the week, and if I was around and available, paid opportunities would surely follow suit...

So when I finished my 'A' Levels in the summer of 1990, I walked away from my uni-bound friends... and those who were already applying for "proper" jobs... and went off to pursue my "hobby" 24/7. Surely, something spectacular would come of that... I was, after all (as most teenagers believe) destined for greatness...

#23 Echo & The Bunnymen - What Are You Going To Do With Your Life?

I realise some of these radio songs are becoming less about radio and more about my life story, but in an infinite number of posts, I'm sure I'll still have time to get to all the great radio songs I haven't yet featured. And there really was no more apt track to post than this one today...
If I knew now what I knew then
I'd wonder how not wonder when
There's something going wrong again
With me and mine
It's only ever what it seems
Memories and might have beens
Heaven's scent: the smell of dreams
We'll never find
Tell me... tell me... tell me... 

Sunday, 12 November 2017

The Neverending Top Ten #8 - Remembering The Soldiers

When I picked Sam up from nursery on Thursday evening, he paid special attention to the poppy I was wearing on my coat. I prepared myself for an awkward conversation...

For a long time - like a lot of parents do, I suppose - I have avoided addressing the subject of death with Sam as it's a concept young children struggle to get their heads around. Hell, it's a concept I struggle to get my head around. When he was younger, that was easy. You deflect, you talk about other things, you hope you can protect him from the harsh realities of the world for as long as you can. Of course, short of keeping your child in a bubble, you can't stop the world from finding its way in to their heads. We first noticed this a few months ago when Sam told us a story about a deer he had when he was a baby, that he kept in the garden, but it was dead now. I don't know where the story came from - probably something one of his friends at nursery had said - but it soon became clear that his young mind was trying to come to terms with the concept.

Then Molly died and we could avoid the truth no more. Louise, being an atheist, was keen not to fill his head with ideas of heaven. I, having grown up with religion but considering myself more of an agnostic ("an atheist who is hedging his bets"), wasn't so sure. But just as you can't protect them from the truth of the world, you can't shield them from other people's ideas either.

"Molly's chasing mice in Heaven," my sister told him. Sam pretty much ignored her and carried on playing. But a couple of weeks later it became clear he'd heard something similar from his friends... and really, it's up to him to make up his own mind about such things when he's older. The concept of an afterlife was a comfort to me when I was younger and I still cling to the idea that the soul is something that lives beyond the death of the body, though I don't subscribe to any specific religious dogma... I think the reality is something beyond our capability to properly grasp. Wow, deep, huh? Or just hedging my bets.

After Molly's death, the inevitable questions followed. "Will you die, daddy?" "Will mummy? "Will I?" We tried to answer them as best we could. As best as anyone can, religious or not. Not for a very, very long time... (I hope!)

Anyway, the poppy. When Sam noticed it, I braced myself for another of those conversations... but it turns out I needn't have worried.

"We made a poppy at nursery," he told me on the way home.

"Oh," I said. "Did you talk about what it was for?"

"To remember the soldiers," he said.

We talked about it a little more, about how the soldiers had died to save us from bad men who wanted to hurt us, then we went back to listening to our songs on the car stereo. A little later I noticed he was quiet and asked if he was OK.

"I'm just remembering the soldiers," he replied. "I don't need a poppy to do that. I can just be quiet and remember them when I want."

Yesterday morning, before watching Paddington 2, there was a minute's silence in the cinema. This morning we turned on the TV just before 11 to observe the two minute's silence at the Cenotaph. Sam stayed quiet for both. I'm not saying I think he understands now what Remembrance Day is all about, but he understands as much as a 4 year old can. Just like I try to understand, as much as a 45 year old can.

8. Radiohead - Harry Patch (In Memory Of)

Here's a song I haven't yet put on one of Sam's CDs. I will when he's older.
I am the only one that got through
The others died where ever they fell
It was an ambush
They came up from all sides
Give your leaders each a gun and then let them fight it out themselves

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Saturday Snapshots #8 - The Answers

Far too easy this week.

We went to Manchester today for a special VIP screening of Paddington 2, arranged by Louise's former employers. By the time we got back, the answers were all but sorted...

10. Political liars give Muffet top marks.

Spin Doctors are political liars.

If Little Miss Muffet got top marks, she would be Little Miss Can't Be Wrong.

One of those bands the musos always turn their noses up at, but I always loved this one - more than their bigger hit, Two Princes. At least Martin has no shame.

The Spin Doctors - Little Miss Can't Be Wrong

9. Hank and Lucinda go Scottish in search of Cockney King Tracy's diary.

Hank & Lucinda = Williams.

Scottish would make them McWilliams.

A Cockney King would be Pearly.

Spencer Tracy.

A diary is full of days.

David McWilliams - The Days of Pearly Spencer

I probably over-egged the clue on this one, but I wasn't sure you'd remember it otherwise. Charity Chic probably recognised the picture and didn't even read the clue...

8. Crazy clerics on the road to narcissism.

Way too easy, but I couldn't resist this picture. I'll give this one to Rigid Digit just to stop Martin hoovering up all this week's points.

Manic Street Preachers - You Love Us

7. 64 Captains: well built - no shit!

A Captain in the Navy is one rank below a Commodore (or something... go look it up yourself).

Children of the 80s will remember the Commodore 64 (although I myself had a Spectrum 48K - keeping it British... and crap).

There is a colloquial expression "built like a brick shithouse"... I'm not sure whether they say this in America, but Brian seemed to know what I was talking about.

The Commodores - Brick House

It would probably have been harder if I'd put my thumb over the top right of the camera when I snapped this picture.

6. The tin is on... you'll only get this if you collaborate.

The HEAT is on (R.I.P. Glenn)

Tin = Can

Collaborate = work together.

Canned Heat - Let's Work Together

5. Spector girl in a storm... hope she doesn't lose her coloured contacts.

One of Phil Spector's many era-defining girl groups was The Crystals.

A storm is a gale.

Brian stayed up till 1am to be first in line to guess this one. Now that's what I call dedication!

Lynchie snoozed and losed.

Crystal Gayle - Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue

4. Touch-typing jumpers visit a windy island.

I never learned to touch type. In fact, though I can type pretty damned fast, I only do it with one finger (two if you count the one on the shift key). If I was learning to touch type though, I might use this pangram...

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog

Mykonos is "The island of the winds" (according to Iffypedia, anyway).

Fleet Foxes - Mykonos

(Conicidentally, I bought the new Fleet Foxes album yesterday. I suspect it may be pretentious bullshit, but the harmonies are still glorious.)

Another one for Martin, I guess.

3. Them stained songs go Welsh... will end up in a comfy prison.

Them sang Gloria.

Jones is originally a Welsh surname.

A stained song would be tainted.

"Will end up in a comfy prison" - this was, of course, more famously covered by Soft Cell.

I didn't know that Gloria Jones was also Marc Bolan's girlfriend until I researched this post.

2. Russian landmark turns 3D because of the U.S.

Red Square is a famous Russian landmark... which would become Red Cube... or Red Box in 3D.

Martin got that too... but couldn't work out the rather obvious song "because of the U.S.". Really Martin? They only had two hits! Luckily, RD came to the rescue.

Gloriously naff 80s video ahoy!

1. Resignation In Lieu Of an old Neighbour. Serving up food for #4.

Really difficult to come up with a clue for this band. I have no idea what Rilo is: the internet tells me it related to the above acronym, but I don't know if that's anything to do with the name of Jenny Lewis's former band... or if Miss Minogue was an inspiration either. But I do love this song, it has one of the best guitar hooks I've ever heard (specifically the bit after she sings "And then there is no mystery left" about 45 seconds in... and it crops up again later). I don't know why it affects me so much; I don't normally get hung up on guitar riffs.

Well done to CC, anyway.

Thank you all for taking part, as always. I'm glad you try to guess them before clicking on the comments section and reading everybody else's answers.

Saturday Snapshots #8

A picture is worth a thousand words. Here are ten, with some rather confusing words attached. Name the artist and the song title...

10. Political liars give Muffet top marks.

9. Hank and Lucinda go Scottish in search of Cockney King Tracy's diary.

8. Crazy clerics on the road to narcissism.

7. 64 Captains: well built - no shit!

6. The tin is on... you'll only get this if you collaborate.

5. Spector girl in a storm... hope she doesn't lose her coloured contacts.

4. Touch-typing jumpers visit a windy island.

3. Them stained songs go Welsh... will end up in a comfy prison.

2. Russian landmark turns 3D because of the U.S.

1. Resignation In Lieu Of an old Neighbour. Serving up food for #4.

Lemon squeezy, right?

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