45 45s @ 45 : SWC STYLE (Part 19)

A GUEST SERIES


27 – Empire State of Mind – Jay Z/Alicia Keys (2009 Roc Nation Records)

Released as a single in October 2009 (Reached Number 2)

Every now and again, I do some teaching. I stand up in front of a bunch of students or professionals and deliver lectures on certain topics. I do these mainly in the UK. For instance, a few months back I was in the beautiful garden city of Leeds doing just that.

But occasionally I get lucky and I get asked to do this internationally. A few years ago, I got asked to deliver a lecture to a some students at the John Jay College in New York, I immediately said yes, because I love New York and started to plan what would have to be a minimum of five days in the Big Apple (during which I would be doing roughly three hours hard work), I looked at getting some Yankees tickets (some are available against the Twins), I checked out what gigs were on (Real Estate at Terminal 5, well ok…) I look to see if I can squeeze in a trip to the Tenement Museum or not and whether or not I can get a boat out to see the Statue of Liberty.

I even book the time off work and tell Mrs SWC that it would be lovely if her and the daughter came over as well. I convince her with memories of our last trip to New York, where we ambled through Central Park arm in arm, casually munching on pistachio ice cream and buying tremendous pizza from a small Italian bloke pushing a cart. She then books time off work and tells the nursery that our daughter will be absent for a few days.

A few weeks later an email comes through, confirming that I am going to be lecturing in two weeks time at 2pm local time. Perfect, then I look at flights. As I’m doing that another email pops up on the screen from the college.

“Please let me know whether you will be using Jabbr Suite or Skype when you deliver your lecture so that we can select the correct software”.

Hang on, what…? You want me to deliver this lecture, over the web…I look at the emails again, yup, there it is….’webinar….’

Bugger.

I phone Mrs SWC and break the news to her. When she has stopped swearing at me, and then laughing at me and swearing at me again, we agree to visit New York in the next year regardless (we haven’t done that yet).

So the day arrives, it feels odd. I am wearing a smart suit and I am standing in my spare room, I have moved the framed photo of Mick Jagger from the wall so that it can’t be seen on camera and I have pushed the basket of toys out of view. Of course, in the UK it’s like five hours ahead of the States. So its seven pm or so when I start, I ask the students if they can hear me, there are a few mumbled ‘yeahs’ so I crack on.

About fifteen minutes in the connection drops out. I’m pretty sure it’s their end, because I can still hear every word that is being said in the now very noisy lecture theatre. When I am eventually reconnected, I am stopped after two more minutes because apparently I sound like ‘an alien’, “well”, the professor tells me, “an English voiced alien”. There is some laughter in the audience. I’ll do the jokes mate I think to myself, although they would sound like an alien doing jokes – like ALF, I suppose (that’s a niche joke that no one under the age of 35 will understand).

Eventually the technicals are sorted out and I fly through the next hour, I start to relax, trying to ignore the fact that I am in my spare room surrounded by toys, an old part of a pram, some books, and some undrunk tea. I start to move about a bit just a few steps here and there and then it happens.

Remember I said above that I’d pushed the basket of toys to one side of view. Well unbeknownst to me, one had fallen out of the basket when I did that. A teddy. Not just any teddy, but one that when you tread on it makes a sound, which I just have. The sound this teddy made at this time was “I feel it in my hooves…” because I’d trodden on disco unicorn.

And, now that sentence had sailed away over the Atlantic to the ears of around 100 now a bit less bored students. Some of whom are laughing at me, or it, to be more specific.

I do the only thing I can, I bend down and pick up disco unicorn and pretend to make it wave at the students. Some of them humour me, most look deeply ashamed to even be there.

At the end, the professor thanks me for my time, apologises for the technical problems and I say to him, with a smile, “I tell you what, I’ll come over and do it in person next time”. I’ve not heard a single word since.

Which provides me with a nice link to post a couple of tracks that very nearly made this list

Talk To Me – Run The Jewels (2015 Run the Jewels Inc, Did Not Chart)

Through The Wire – Kanye West (2003 Roc-A-Fella Records, Number 9)

SWC

 

 

TIMES LIKE THESE

Many thanks for all your kind words on the news of my (semi) retirement from the world of work.  Hugely appreciated.  A couple of the comments, from regular contributors, ended up in the spam section which was very strange, but I’ve fished them out and put them in their proper place.   I’m thinking that, with a reported rise in online scamming in recent days, WordPress is acting on the cautious side – I’ll do my best to stay on top of things by checking on the spam stuff at least on a daily basis – so if your comment doesn’t appear immediately, then please bear with me.  But I can’t work out just why The Great Gog is having all his comments left behind as ‘anonymous’ just now.  Might be worth everyone adding a wee signature at the end of any contributions for now.

A few folk have been in touch offering additional guest contributions on the basis that they have a bit more time on their hands and want to try and do something useful.  You all know my take on this – every single guest contribution, unless it is offensive, racist, sexist etc. will find its way onto the blog as I regard it as a place where everyone is welcome to say their bit and share their thoughts, views and opinions with our little community.  So, feel free to send stuff over.

Having said that, please be prepared, again, to be patient.  I really don’t want to expand beyond one post per day and I have a policy of one ICA per week as these lengthy submissions should be allowed a bit of breathing space over an extended period of time. I’ve also got a couple of ongoing series, not least SWC’s 45s at 45 rundown, all of which have been allocated dates to take us through to his #1 appearing on his birthday in mid-June.  The Saturday series is also staying put – I’m loath to give it up or put it to one side after so many weeks getting to the letter ‘M’ and while I know it’s the one day when perhaps it features a singer or band that few or you know or, even worse, many of you don’t have any time for, it’s something I’m determined to get through to the end.

Today was meant to feature another ICA from HSP, but I’ve shifted that to later in the week. I’m instead handing over to ‘Middle Aged Man’ whose previous toe-dip as a guest contributor was a well received Bauhaus ICA.

Here he is….with some thought ss on two bands he completely missed out on (which, incidentally, happens to be a subject matter that will be the focus of one of SWC’s upcoming contributions).

———————-

While as a person I’m not cool and never have been, I’ve always sought refuge in that I had cool taste in music, although in truth my taste in music was probably closer to what the music press said was good. Like many of the readers of this blog I was lucky enough to become interested in music during the heyday of the music press and in particular the NME, I would slavishly read every page every week – I was even known to cut out ‘witty’ quotes and put them on the pin board.

And then some years later came the internet or rather and then came music blogging and I discovered that there were bands who made great music and not just a single track but album after album who the NME never even mentioned. How did this happen? How did bands make great music never have a hit, never even get in the Indie top 30 or a review in the music press?

One band that I completely missed were ‘Click Click’ who must have been a great band name at the time.

Having listened to a couple of tracks I then spend a few years trying to find everything and anything else they released – via various blogs and then bandcamp and finally their own label – Rotorbabe Recordings – and even better laerning that they were releasing new music and performing live.

Now comes the tricky bit- how to describe their music – it is definitely electronic in that there a very few if any guitars but have a real drummer using a real drum set so they avoid the feel of the mid 80’s electronic duos such as Yazoo-Soft Cell- Blancmange etc. There’s a lovely indie disco dancability to their music but definitely not disco and on top of this is a real sense of tension verging on spookiness a few of tracks to illustrate this – the song titles give an idea of the tone and feel – paranoid 80’s at its best.

Awake and Watching from their album ‘Rorschach Testing’
Yakutska a stand only single
Man in a Suit – from their most recent album ‘Those Nervous Surgeons’

My second ‘how did I miss’ are ‘For Against’ – 8 albums released – who knew? Sadly not me. A ‘proper’ band with drums, bass, guitar and probably keyboards although they seem to have been a trio most of the time and a much more ‘post punk’ feel- by the way, when did post punk become a thing? Initially very early 80’s with the bass to the fore as you would expect and no hint of the dreaded love song. As with most bands they become ‘tuneful’ with proper songs and proper singing over the years.

Amnesia from an ep ‘In the Marshes’
Loud and Clear from their debut album ‘Aperture’
Glamour from the album ‘Shade Side Sunny Side’

MIDDLE AGED MAN

45 45s @ 45 : SWC STYLE (Part 18)

A GUEST SERIES


28. Slow Life – Super Furry Animals (2004, Placid Casual Records)

Released as a Free Download EP in April 2004 (Did not chart)

For such a small place, the Devon market town of Bovey Tracey holds a great deal of history. Firstly it is half named after the chap who is linked to the murder of Thomas Beckett. Secondly, it is where Cromwell ransacked a few armies and stole quite a lot of horses and changed British society for ever. It is also the gateway to the Moor, Dartmoor that is, the only place in Britain where you can genuinely get all four seasons in one day, whatever time of the year you go there.

But, all that is knocked into a cocked hat because when history is evaluated and assessed Bovey Tracey will only ever be remembered for one thing.

Badger falling off a bar stool in the Cromwell Arms, after a goat bit him on the arm.

The goat bit him on the arm because Badger had refused to allow the goat to have a bit of his prawn and lettuce sandwich.

The thing was the goat was a more of a regular in the Cromwell that Badger was. The goat belonged to a chap who I only know as ‘Puffin’, I have no idea why they call him Puffin. The goat would pop in after a hard day’s erm, goating, in the town, he would then be presented with a bowl full of Guinness and a packet of steak flavoured crisps. Puffin would follow him in and the two would sit (or stand, in, the goats case), have their drinks, chat to their mates, have a game of darts and then leave around dinner time.

Badger was in there having some late tea with Mrs Badger, when the goat was denied his pre-dinner snack. The goat having finished his crisps decided that the prawn sandwich looked rather tasty. According to Mrs Badger, it ambled over to Tim, nudged him a bit and tried to nibble the end of the sandwich. Tim fearing for his tea lifted the plate above his head with his left arm, and tried to shoo the goat away with his right arm. This annoyed the goat, who promptly bit him on the shooing arm.

This caused him to drop the plate and allowed the goat to nimbly take the lettuce out of the sandwich are return to his place by the fire. Badger declined the offer of a fresh sandwich but did take up the local doctor’s advice of having a free dose of tetanus. Puffin apologised to Badger for the bite, and told him that the goat only did it because the barman poured him Beamish instead of Guinness and Beamish apparently made the goat ‘rowdy’.

Bringing this back to the reason why I am here. A few years ago, as some of you will remember, a blog I wrote ran down a list of 200 songs that according to Badger and I were the ‘Greatest Songs in the World’ – we called that list rather arrogantly The WYCRA 200. That list was largely conceived (if that’s the right word) in the Cromwell Arms. Additionally, the follow up blog to WYCRA, The Sound of Being Ok had its inaugural blog summit, in the same place and in Badger’s coat pocket that lunchtime was a copy of ‘Phantom Power’ which contains of course ‘Slow Life’

I found the original list for the WYCRA 200, a few weeks back and on reviewing that list, I found it was staggering how much of that list I would change if I ever did that list again (and I won’t be). I mean this would be in the Top 50 for a start

So Few Words – Archive (1996, London Records, Unknown Chart Position)

It didn’t even make the Top 200 at all last time around.

In fact quite a lot of the entire list would have moved around considerably. That, I guess is joy and frustration of music. I think that most of the bands would have been the same, but the songs would I think be different and in a different order, if that makes sense.

For instance – on that list somewhere (its number isn’t really important) was ‘Ice Hockey Hair’ by Super Furry Animals. A track which I still love for lots of reasons but if I were to redo that list Ice Hockey Hair would be booted out for ‘Slow Life’.

Ice Hockey Hair (1998, Creation Records, Number 12)

SWC

 

 

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #205 : MEMPHIS

I can do no better than offer a repeat post from February 2014:-

James Kirk wrote the finest single ever recorded by Orange Juice. In fact, as regular readers will know, it is my strongly-held view that Felicity is the finest single ever recorded by any Scottish band or singer.

In 1985, James Kirk rather surprisingly came out of his self-imposed retirement and, adopting the name Memphis, wrote and recorded what rather sadly turned out to be a one-off 45 for the Swamplands label that was being run by Alan Horne (ex Postcard).

mp3 : Memphis – You Supply The Roses
mp3 : Memphis – Apres Ski

Here’s the instrumental version of the a-side that was made available on the 12″ release.  It was sent to me back in 2014 by Hugh, a then regular reader from France, and it was in response to my general plea for a digital copy as I only had the 7″ version in the collection.

mp3 : Memphis – I’ll Supply The Wine

Cheers.

JC

THE END OF AN ERA?? WELL, IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN!

This one is a tad self-indulgent.

I graduated from university on Friday 5 July 1985.   I started work on Monday 8 July 1985 – it was a time in history when, without the help of the old-school tie, it was difficult to land a job that was compatible with your degree and so when I was asked, following what I recall being my fourth job interview, to join a local council in Edinburgh at the earliest opportunity, any plans for a few weeks of down time were put to the side.  It’s a decision I’ve never regretted.

Today, Friday 27 March 2020, I will enjoy my last day of paid employment, after my application for early retirement through voluntary redundancy was accepted.

It’s been an incredibly strange and frustrating end to my career as I’ve mostly been working from home these past two weeks, taking part in regular conference calls with my fellow managers, doing our best to keep things ticking over and trying to keep staff morale as high as is possible in such challenging and uncertain times.

From a selfish point of view, the planned night out has, of course, been cancelled but I’ve undertaken to go back in for one last time when this all eventually calms down and to do my very best to have a leaving do that will be legendary.

I have no intention to work for a living in the future, and the plan, eventually,  is to devote as much time as possible to travel, music, Raith Rovers and golf. Oh, and I have good intentions about trying to pass my driving test!

EXCEPT………..in such challenging times everyone had to be less selfish and so I’ve offered to stay on, free of charge on a voluntary basis, to continue to help and support my colleagues as we implement business contingency plans, including, eventually, preparing for how best to get going when there is some sort of return to normality.

I did think about changing the intended piece of music that has long been scheduled for today, but will stick with the latest one-hour mix tape, with most of the song titles having some sort of link to the past 35 years.  The opener is one that myself and Jacques once danced to at the Xmas Party that we organised jointly on behalf of our colleagues – the one piece of music we decided should clear the floor for a couple of minutes.

I’m happy to say that I have had many more good than bad days during my career and have made a number of lifelong friends along the way.  I’ve been lucky that way.

mp3 : Various – The End of an Era

Tracklist

Pixies – Debaser
The Wedding Present – What Did Your Last Servant Die Of?
The Rakes – Work Work Work (Pub Club Sleep)
The Clash – Career Opportunities
Idlewild – You Held The World In Your Arms
Fun Boy Three – It Ain’t What You Do
R.E.M. – Finest Worksong
Buzzcocks – Everybody’s Happy Nowadays
The Jam – Just Who Is The 5 O’Clock Hero?
Le Tigre – Deceptacon
Magazine – Model Worker
Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci – Patio Song
Electronic – Getting Away With It
The Fall – Fantastic Life
International Teachers of Pop – The Age of The Train
Stereolab – Ping Pong
Lloyd Cole – Don’t Look Back (original mix)
Otoboke Beaver – 6 Days Working Week Is a Pain
PJ Harvey – Big Exit (edit)
Young Marble Giants – Final Day

A new life beckons.  Eventually.

JC

45 45s @ 45 : SWC STYLE (Part 17)

A GUEST SERIES


29 : Cannonball – The Breeders (1993 4AD Records)

Released as a single in August 1993 (Reached Number 40)

Another record I can’t play on guitar and for the second post in a row I get to say that something rocks like a bastard, which is exactly what ‘Cannonball’ does. It is also bloody brilliant, but I’m kind of figuring that you all know that by now. You mustn’t whatever you do confuse this track with the David Gray track which has the same name. They are very different. Gray’s ‘Cannonball’ doesn’t rock like a bastard, it more sways like an abandoned windbreak at a lonely Welsh beach. It’s shit as well.

In my second year as a student I was asked by the Students Union to be a judge at a ‘Battle of the Bands’ kind of contest (I suppose that my editing of the music pages gave me some form of experience). Something which I reluctantly agreed to do. I mean, secretly I was honoured and amazed that they even asked, but I nonchalantly said that I would check my schedule and get back to them. Which I did twenty minutes later, saying yes.

The event itself was pretty awful. There were ten or so entrants, mostly pub rocking student bands who could neither play, sing nor write their own material. I’ll bypass most of them if you don’t mind, but I will touch briefly on ‘Anita’. Anita was a dance student, who played an acoustic guitar, well, she knew two chords, and thought she could sing. Worse than that she thought she could sing Joni Mitchell songs. She couldn’t. She was embarrassing the entire human race by just being there. The fact that she lived next door to the future Mrs SWC, was something I ignored when I was asked to comment on her performance by the compare (a fat oaf who genuinely changed his middle name to ‘Disco’ when standing for the Entertainments Chair Position). I told her that she should stick to dancing. She didn’t speak to me or Mrs SWC again from that afternoon.

Anyway, the two best student bands around were (and I’ve changed their names because one of them got signed and did quite well) my mates band ‘Tea Towel’ – who didn’t get signed – and ‘Knobheads’, who did. I think you can work out which band I thought I was better. Knobheads sounded like Pearl Jam and in comparison Tea Towel sounded like Radiohead. I couldn’t understand the appeal of Knobheads, also they all had the looks of models, and were way more talented than I would ever be, but you know, Pearl Jam.

The problem was that Knobheads were playing their own material and Tea Towel were not, they were doing cover versions of songs like ’Breakfast at Tiffanys’ which didn’t help them. Still, apart from that they were better musicians, had a better singer and had bought me at least two bottles of Becks that day.

Anyway, it came to the final, a shoot off between these two bands. They had thirty minutes to wow the audience and the judges. I mean I’d already nailed my colours to the mast by telling Knobheads that I would ‘actually rather read The Sun on a bus to Woking’ than listen to them again. I mean, it’s hardly Simon Cowell is it?

Anyway Tea Towel come on and do very well, they ended with a new song, a cover of this as it happens,

Grassman – Dodgy

But without the gospel choir. A song which itself very nearly made this list. It was remarkable, but not remarkable enough.

Knobheads strode out full of confidence, wearing shades, and looking it has to be said, like an actual band. They were a five piece, only one of whom was actually a student, something, I tried in vain to point ou.  They had a singer, a lead guitarist, a rhythm guitarist, a bassist and a drummer. They played twenty five minutes of their Pearl Jam inspired angst rock and I tried to not yawn too obviously. Then they said for the last song they were going to end with a cover. Which is when they blew the roof off the place.

The singer grabbed another guitar and the rhythm swapped his guitar for a Gibson Flying V, and they launched into a full on enslaught of ‘Cannonball’ and I have to say it sounded bloody amazing. Three lead guitars, a crashing bass, stage divers, and trashed speaker at the end. If they did that all the time instead of having seven songs that sound exactly like ‘Even Flow’, then I might have upgraded The Sun to the Guardian.

It was, and believe me, if you knew the back story about me and that band (another time), you would understand how much it pains me to even type it, the best thing I’d seen live for some time. The bastards.

The B Side of ‘Cannonball’ contains an Aerosmith cover version – an ode to Chris Hoy, so I’m told.

Lord of the Thighs

SWC

 

 

AS MENTIONED YESTERDAY

The McCarricks are the husband and wife duo of Martin McCarrick on cello and Kimberlee McCarrick on violin. They have collaborated and performed with many well-known musicians including Kristin Hersh, Sinéad O’Connor, Gary Numan, Marianne Faithfull and Patti Smith.  Their own performances are usually in front of silent films produced specially for their performances.

It was back in 2007 that I saw them play live, possibly in the company of Mike from Manic Pop Thrills and possibly as support to Kristin Hersh. The music in the live setting was mesmorising and engrossing and led to my purchase, before leaving the venue, of a mini-album on CD, which turned out to be not quite so mesmorising and engrossing once I got home. But it did have a fabulous cover on it:-

mp3 : The McCarricks – Your Ghost

Here’s the original

mp3 : Kristin Hersh (feat Michael Stipe) – Your Ghost

JC