Saturday, 26 May 2018

Saturday Snapshots #34

Does Your Mother Know you're looking at Saturday Snapshots again?

That's The Name Of The Game - identify ten artists and songs from the clues below.

Do I think you'll get them all right again?

I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do...

10. When Michael met Sinatra, Jake & Elwood dealt the cards.

9. Dame Judi Dench shares our collective obsession.

8. The 5th (of 5) + the 3rd (of 8) = how we feel when we've had enough.

7. Genius hits the Irish Cream... and sets the turntables spinning.

6. Pop's very dull boss begs for an extension.

5. Rambler in the Antarctic. O!

4. A potato king throws a party in Barnet. We loathe ourselves for attending.

3. Barbie's perfect man joins Johnny on the late show to celebrate juggernauts.

2. So angry, he kills giants and presidents with a perfect simile.

1. Brian's on the fence about wild horses in a Field.

Answers tomorrow. Go on - Take A Chance On Me!

Friday, 25 May 2018

2018 Contenders: Better Than Ezra?

My attention always picks up whenever reviewers start comparing a new release with Bruce Springsteen, particularly Born To Run era Boss. To be honest, over the years, I've bought any number of odd records - from Lady Gaga to Lana Del Rey - based on such comparisons, and often found myself scratching my head... though after some immersion, I can usually see what they mean. It's not about sounding like Bruce in most cases, it's about tackling similar themes or creating a similar atmosphere or using a similar storytelling style. I'm sure Dylan fans go through the same process on a regular basis... I wonder how many of them ended up disappointed when they bought Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. on the back of such comparisons?

Anyway, the lead single from the new Ezra Furman album, Suck The Blood From My Wound, garnered many a "sounds a bit like BTR" nod, so I had to investigate further. The themes are definitely present, with lines such as these easily recalling Bruce and Wendy's fervent desire to break out of New Jersey...

And I'm doing ninety, got to get there and hold him
If we can make it across the state line then baby, we're golden
Let the law pronounce its' petty assertions
They've been outsmarted by a couple of urchins

Park for the night north west of Baton Rouge
Across the parking lot you're stretching the one wing you can move
I let you walk as long as fear will allow
I never loved you more than I love you now

And then we're back on the road before the sun's even up
We're making time, we're making progress
But progress towards what?
Your fallen feathers fill up two shopping bags
The future's breathing down the neck of the past
And the sun throws a shit-eating shine on the moon
And I'm not about to wait for them to come
Suck the blood from my wound

Although the single carries the most obvious Bruce connotations, there are moments on the rest of the album that also lead me to believe Ezra's been channeling the Boss. There's a desperation to his voice that you hear on a lot of Springsteen records, and just like Bruce... well, he's not the best singer. You hear him reaching for notes he probably shouldn't attempt on a number of occasions, and getting by on sheer determination. I've reached the conclusion that I prefer singers who aren't that great at singing, yet succeed despite that. Bruce readily admits this, and nobody would allow Billy Bragg or Elvis Costello or Frank Turner into their church choir, but their voices connect with me in a way many note-perfect performers just don't. I mean, I love James Dean Bradfield, but he makes it look so damned easy. He never breaks a sweat. I think ultimately I prefer artists who have to work for it - and Ezra is definitely pushing himself to the limit on this disc.

Even if you're not a Springsteen aficionado though, there's still plenty to enjoy on Transangelic Exodus. For me, the other major touchstone on this record is Rufus Wainwright. Furman is excellent at bringing the perspective of a young gay man to classic rock song storylines: something we don't often hear. Love You So Bad tackles a typical teenage romance song from this perspective, whereas closing track I Lost My Innocence, lyrically at least, really could be Rufus doing Born To Run...

I looked a real long time
To find the border
Of a kingdom of love, outside the
Reigning order
And I found my angel on a motorcycle
I'm a queer for life
Outlaw, outsider and uh

Most telling of all is the song Compulsive Liar, on which Furman puts his untrustworthiness and gift for fanciful storytelling down to the fact that many young LGBT people teach themselves to lie to the world from a very young age...

And I can trace the habit
To when I was eleven
And I thought boys were pretty
And I couldn't tell no one

And if all that isn't enough to pique your interest in Transangelic Exodus, then may I at least offer that this record must surely contain some of the year's best rhymes? Where else will you find Pasadena rhymed with deus ex machina or Vincent rhymed with innocence, instance, incident, Thin Mints and a pack of Winstons?

Thursday, 24 May 2018

My Top Ten Car Theft Songs

Car theft is no laughing matter, as anyone who's ever had their car stolen will tell you. Doesn't stop people writing songs about it though...

Here's ten of the best.

10. Babybird - Too Handsome To Be Homeless

We are not cool
We are not crazy
We steal cars
Because we're lazy

Well, that's one explanation.

9. Alice Cooper - Steal That Car

Vincent, on the other hand, just has no shame.

It just ain't fair I was put in that position
Somebody left their keys in the ignition
I saw the unlocked door and made my decision
I just can't help myself

8. Teenage Fanclub - Don't Look Back

Could there possibly be a sweeter lyric about car theft than this?
I'd steal a car to drive you home

7. Kirsty MacColl - Bad

I want a brief encounter in a stolen car
A hand on my buttock in a Spanish bar

We need more pop songs that feature the word "buttock". I'm tempted to compile a Top Ten.

6. Big Star - In The Street
Steal your car, and bring it down
Pick me up, we'll drive around
Wish we had
A joint so bad

They don't write 'em like that anymore.

Don't drive stoned, kids.

5. Elvis Presley - In The Ghetto

He buys a gun
Steals a car
Tries to run
But he don't get far...

...and the hearts of a million Elvis fans crack open.

Or, if you prefer, try Blue Suede Shoes...

Well, you can burn my house
Steal my car
Drink my liquor
From an old fruit jar
Well do anything that you want to do
But uh-uh, honey lay off of my shoes!

4. Beth Orton - Stolen Car

Forgotten how good this was. For a while there, Beth was the natural heir to Joni's crown.

One drink too many and a joke gone too far
I see a face drive like a stolen car
Gets harder to hide when you're hitching a ride
Harder to hide what you really saw

3. Bruce Springsteen - Stolen Car

Regular readers might have exected this to be Number One. So did I. Then I remembered the two songs below. Still, this is bloody marvellous. Question though, Bruce fans... do you prefer the album version above... or the piano-heavy re-interpretation / original from Tracks? I'm torn. I reckon that version actually sounds more like Bruce, whereas the version included on The River is Bruce doing Dylan.
And I'm driving a stolen car
Down on Eldridge Avenue
Each night I wait to get caught
But I never do...

Got to recommend the Patty Griffin version too.

2. Pulp - Joyriders

For the second time this week, Jarvis almost makes it to Number One... story of his life, I guess, considering Common People may well be the best Number Two ever. This song  is perfection: makes you wonder what could be better, doesn't it?

We can't help it, we're so thick we can't think,
Can't think of anything but shit, sleep and drink.
Oh, and we like women;
"Up the women" we say,
And if we get lucky,
We might even meet some one day.
Mister, we just want your car,
'Cause we're taking a girl to the reservoir.
Oh, all the papers say,
It's a tragedy, but don't you want to come and see?

(Oh, and I'm very sorry, but I just couldn't find room for Roxette's Joyride. I know you were expecting it!)

1. Billy Bragg & Johnny Marr - Greetings To The New Brunette

Shirley stole today's top prize - Billy and Johnny were so good together, it makes you wonder if they'd have lasted longer and been even more cherished than Johnny and that other bloke. If only they'd made more music together...

The people from your church agree
It's not much of a career
Trying the handles of parked cars
Whoops - there goes another year!
Whoops - there goes another pint of beer!
Here we are in our summer years
Living on ice cream and chocolates kisses
Would the leaves fall from the trees
If I was your old man
And you was my missus?

What's in the tape deck of your stolen car?

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Radio Songs #36: Talk Radio

Pictured above is the actor Eric Bogosian who wrote and starred in the Oliver Stone movie Talk Radio. It was partly inspired by the life and death of DJ / talk show host Alan Berg who was killed in the early 80s because white supremacists didn't like his show.

I worked with two main presenters (and a variety of fill-in dudes) during the ten plus years I "produced" the late night radio phone-in. Both had very different styles, but each soon realised that in order to get people to call in night after night, you had to occasionally play devil's advocate and court a bit of controversy. And as a result, for every listener who loves your show, you'll find one who hates it. But sometimes the ones who hate it - if they can be persuaded to call up - can make the most interesting radio. Listening to people agreeing with each other on a variety of subjects night after night soon becomes boring. The best thing of all though is if you can get someone else to do the controversy for you. Let someone with truly outrageous views (listeners will always be more outrageous than any presenter is allowed to be) vent for a while... then watch the switchboard light up and you've got a call log that'll last you till the end of the show.

However, there are certain subjects which are talk show poison. Everyone has an opinion on them and loads of people will call in... but everybody says the same thing and from a listener's perspective it becomes very dull very quickly. (Good radio hosts quickly understand the balancing act between what active callers want to talk about and what passive listeners want to hear.)

Chief poison is dog poo.

Dog poo on the pavements. Dog poo in the park. Dog poo on the bottom of your shoes.

If ever you hear a local radio phone-in where they've resorted to talking about this, I can guarantee you two things:

1. The presenter really doesn't want to be talking about it: they know how boring it is.

2. Nothing else they've tried that night has caught on, so dog poo is desperation.

As a "producer" (I put the term in rabbit ears because I never thought of myself as such and was rarely ever called it: "phone-op" was far more common), your job is simple: keep the calls lined up. One on air, one on hold, a third in reserve just in case either of the first two disappear or say something that gets them cut off. On quiet nights though, you just pray for a call. Any call. You daren't leave the switchboard to grab a coffee or take a toilet break. Not until you have a couple in reserve. And when the switchboard flashes green, you jump on it...

"Hello - the $*£&% phone-in. What would you like to talk about?"

"Dog poo on the streets."

The presenter (who at this point has been talking for ten minutes without a break, desperately trying every trick in their arsenal to drum up calls) then gives you a look of relief tinged with gratitude, a look that also says: "At last! Get them on air NOW!" And you have to break the news to them that... yes, you can have them if you want... but I don't think you're gonna want them.

Still, at least after that you'll have calls for the next hour or so...

(Oh, in case you're wondering, nobody assassinated either of the presenters I worked with. There was the odd psycho and occasional stalker though. We'll get to them.)

36. The Dandy Warhols - Talk Radio

I reckon I have quite a few posts about working on the phone-in (even more if I can find the notebook I kept at the time) but I might spread them out a bit to stop them getting too boring. Believe me, I'm no advocate for talk radio. Like most things I was involved in during my time in radio, I can see how - done well - it can be entertaining... but in the end, I grew to hate it. Kinda like the Dandy Warhols obviously do. Watch this video if you want to see how it affects the minds of impressionable listeners...

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Hot 100 Countdown #83

Great 83 songs were thin on the ground, and about the only one I could find in my own record collection was this...

John Mayer - 83

I did quite like that back in 2001 - enough to swipe it from the chuck-out box, anyway - but listening back it all seems very polished and I don't particularly take to Mayer's voice anymore. Plus, Mayer appears to be a bit of a dick, having given some supremely dodgy interviews in his day. And obviously, I will not stand behind any artist who says stupid, inflammatory things in interviews.

The Swede dropped by to offer Magdalena 83 by Alan Vega - which I'm sure is pretty good since I do like a bit of Suicide every now and then... but as I couldn't find it anywhere on t'internet, and it doesn't (yet) feature in my record collection, I had to give it a pass.

Martin suggested Wafia - 83 Days, which to be fair he caveated with "don't like very much" (alongside John Mayer... which made me question the darker crevices of Martin's record collection as much as I sometimes do my own) but then he redeemed himself slightly by offering Major Tom (Coming Home) by German Bowie obsessive Peter Schilling. That doesn't actually mention 83 at all in title or lyrics, but Martin offered the following defence: "(a) it was used as the theme for the excellent Deutschland 83 and (b) is actually quite good", which would generally be enough for me... although I haven't seen the show myself.

The only other song I'm aware of with 83 in the title comes from the soundtrack of Flashdance... but it's hardly What A Feeling!

Irene Cara - Romance '83

All of which led me to search for lyrical references to the number 83, most of which revolved around the year... but rules are meant to be broken in times of desperation. So, here's My Top Ten 83 Songs... leading up to this week's winner:

10. Over The Rhine - Ohio

It was summertime in '83
We were burnin' out at the rubber tree
Wonderin' what in the world
Would make all this worthwhile
And if I knew then I was older then
Would I see regret to the last mile?

9. Ace Frehley & Frehley´s Comet - Rock Soldiers

They don't make 'em this Ace anymore.

It was back in the summer of '83
There's a reason I remember it well
I was slipping and sliding, drinkin' and drivin'
Bringin' me closer to Hell
And the Devil sat in the passenger's side
Of Delorean's automobile
He said, "Hey Frehley, Frehley let's not be silly
There's a life out there to steal!"

8. Hefner - Lee Remick

(Not the Go-Betweens song... in case you were wondering.)

I think it was in '83 my father left the family
But came back three weeks later
For a love both firm and stable

7. Marah - The Catfisherman
I got a couple of rods; they got tape where they broke
I got a bobber, some sinkers and two packs of smokes
I got the sun goin' down and the moon comin' out
And it's 83 degrees and I'm pissin' in the river

6. REM & Patti Smith - E-Bow The Letter

Will you live to 83?
Will you ever welcome me?
Will you show me something that nobody else has seen?

5. Guy Clark - A Nickel For The Fiddler

Well, it's a fiddler from Kentucky
Who swears he's 83
And he's fiddled every contest
From here to Cripple Creek
And it's old ones and it's young ones
And it's plain they half agreed
That it's country music in the park
As far as they can see

4. Dexys Midnight Runners - I Love You (Listen To This)

You were standing next to me,
In '82 and '83,
In all that time I barely proved I love you
Well there's nothing wrong but the wrong in me
You were everything you were meant to be

3. Drive-By Truckers - A World Of Hurt

And my good friend Paul was 83
When he told me that, "To love is to feel pain"
I thought about that a lot back then
I think about that again and again

2. Pulp - Last Days Of The Miner's Strike

Well my body sank below the ground
It became as black as night,
Overhead the sounds of horses hooves,
People fighting for their lives.
Some joker in a headband was still
Getting chicks for free.
And Big Brother was still watching you
Back in the days of '83.

1. Amy Rigby - The Summer of My Wasted Youth

Summertime in '83
I didn't need a j-o-b
Cause unemployment kept me free
To study country harmony
And find somebody with a car
Drink cheap beer in the Polish bar
Take photos in the photo booth
The summer of my wasted youth

So, lyrics will be allowed for 82... as will years. Unless you have an amazing title suggestion. These are the toughest numbers. They will get easier.

Monday, 21 May 2018

Mid-Life Crisis Songs #26: I'm The Same Age That My Father Was...

...When I First Thought He Was Old.

I owe this particular Mid-Life Crisis tune to Rigid Digit, who recently recommended the album it hails from (along with 9 far more familiar offerings) as one if his Top Ten Albums, calling it "a bible for the Grumpy Middle Aged Man". Well, obviously I had to investigate immediately... and I'm glad I did. Suffice it to sat I'll definitely be returning later to nominate the former Christians frontman for a Grumpy Old Man post of his own, but in the meantime this particular tunes hits the old Mid-Life Crisis right where it hurts.

As mentioned here quite recently, I was 42 when I became a father... the same age my dad was when I was born. I'm not sure when I realised that my parents were older than most of my friends' mums and dads, but it did hit me when I was quite young and I remember sobbing at the thought of losing them because "they are so old". I consider myself blessed to have reached the age I am now and still have both of them around to enjoy their final grandchild. But the clock is ticking... for all of us.

Make the most of what time you have...

26. Henry Priestman - Old

I don't want to work my fingers to the bone
Me, I'd rather drink wine with you back at home
I don't want to think about what car the neighbours bought
I'm happy just to sit here laughin' on the porch
And I don't really care what they got over there

I tried to run a mile today, I maybe should have walked
My head had the ambition but my body was all talk
And while I'm trying to make some sense of it, the laughter takes a hold
I'm the same age that my father was when I first thought he was old

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Saturday Snapshots #33 - The Answers

I wouldn't normally post a picture of a young lady in the bath, but given she's the answer to one of this week's questions and she appears to have taken the photo herself, I thought it would be allowed. Sharp-eyed readers (i.e. those of you who don't just come here on a Saturday and/or Sunday) will have noticed that she's already featured on this blog earlier this week anyway. But Snapshots are prepared well in advance of regular postings for reasons too mundane to explain.

For balance, if you want to send me a photo of your favourite male pop star in the bath holding a camera, I'll be sure to feature that some time in the future. As long as it's not Bono.

Anyway, it was pretty much a three horse race this week, with a returning George first out of the raps, followed swiftly by Rigid Digit and Martin, with Lynchie getting half a point to keep him happy. Even though Martin got more correct answers, I'm going to - somewhat controversially - award the crown to George this week because he went above and beyond the call of duty in trying to explain (at least half of) my convoluted clue to #1. And the referee's decision is final...

10. Escape with this Rat Pack sibling.

The Rat Pack did swing music. See?

Swing Out Sister - Breakout

9. The Admiral invites some mates round for a barbecue.

Admiral Nelson.

Ricky Nelson - Garden Party

8. Passing rigs steal Belinda Carlisle's shoes...

Belinda was in the Go-Gos.

Drive-By Truckers - Go Go Boots 

7. I dream of the life of a school governor in Mockingbird county.

I Dream Of Jeannie.

The Life of Riley.

Harper Lee wrote To Kill A Mockingbird.

Jeannie C. Riley - Harper Valley PTA

6. Teenage party game played with a bowler in the pasture.

Bowler hat in a field.

Juliana Hatfield Three - Spin The Bottle

5. Farrell & Firth are professional bigamists. A new paint job is required!

Colin Farrell & Colin Firth are Professionals... ProCol. Important that you spell this band's name correctly to get that clue.

Procol Harum - A Whiter Shade of Pale

4. The beauties enjoy a citrus squeeze.

LaBelle - Lady Marmalade

3. Two mules for sister Stewart! Where Chris, Cliff and Neil went.

Where Chris, Cliff and Neil went.

Where Chris, Cliff and Neil went.

Two Mules For Sister Sarah.

Muffin was a mule.

Martha Stewart.

Chris Rea, Cliff Richard & Neil Young all sang On The Beach.

Is there an echo in here?

Martha & The Muffins - Echo Beach

2. Traffic report: I've been waiting for this for ages!

Delays - Long Time Coming

1. Buck Rogers teleports into Michael's disturbing house to find Billy refusing to let his T-shirt be filmed. (Most convoluted clue ever: extra marks if you can explain it all. Or any of it.)

Buck Rogers was played by Gil Gerard.

Mr. Scott worked the teleporter on the starship Enterprise.

REM (and Michael Stipe) sang about a Disturbance At The Heron House.

Billy Bragg sang that "the revolution is just a T-shirt away". (I own that T-shirt.)

The revolution will not go better with Coke
The revolution will not fight the germs that cause bad breath
The revolution WILL put you in the driver's seat
The revolution will not be televised

But Saturday Snapshots will be back next week.

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