FANCY A BREW? (Mark and Lard Late Show Appreciation)

A GUEST POSTING by STEVE McLEAN

In the world of podcasts, streaming TV or countless wiki articles on the most niche subjects, it’s hard to fathom just how hard it was to be exposed to culture in the British suburbs during the early 90s. For example ‘Allo ‘Allo and Birds of a Feather were still TV regulars, Mills and Boon could be found in most libraries under a section called Women’s Literature and Bryan Adams was at number one from the end of the Madchester scene until the start of Britpop.

So up stepped Radio One.

By 1992, the channel had become stale and lifeless. Radio One listeners were the same people who had listened to the station in the 1970s, it didn’t really cater for ‘’the kids’’ and while Smashy and Nicey were stereotypes, they were pretty close to the fucking bone.

Matthew Bannister, who was the new young fresh controller of radio one (half the age of some of the DJs) saw the problem and reckoned the solution was a good old spring clean. He started with the overnight schedules. I said above about how it’s hard it was to be exposed to culture, it’s equally hard to fathom just how good Bannister made late night Radio One. While the old hags hung on for a little while, the fresh faces started to creep in, from October 1993 the post-drivetime line up looked something like this –

6.30pm – 9pm: The Evening Session. This was one of the few survivors of the previous station management. However previously it had been a bone thrown to keep people quiet, under Bannister it became the bugle cry for new music.

9pm – 10pm – Either an hour-long documentary about music, films, art and culture or the hour was split into two halves with a specialist shows for dance, hip hop or a movie review followed by a half hour of comedy – Lee & Herring, Jeremy Hardy, Jo Brand, Simon Munnery and a stack of others all getting their own show…. and then from

10pm until midnight (Monday to Thursday)- THE MARK RADCLIFFE SHOW – AKA Mark & Lard AKA The Graveyard Shift.

To an 18 year old in 1993, this show was a revelation. Perhaps it’s best described as the internet on the radio. It sounds like hyperbole but it was a mishmash of everything in a pot. Broadcasting from BBC Manchester. I’d call it a magazine show but that’s a shit title, it was more like Pebble Mill for NME readers (which is an awesome name).

Mark Radcliffe was an established local BBC broadcaster (who may or may not have discovered Chris Evans depending on who you talk to) and his sidekick Marc ‘Lard’ Riley was, like most people from Manchester, a former member of The Fall. Together they delivered a show so on point that it helped steer the direction of upcoming music trends, as well as placing comedy, films and books from their own collections into the heads of the indie kids.

Through this show I discovered so much new music and new-to-me music. Radcliffe regularly played the full 8 minute, Vocoder poem that is O Superman, giving me a lifelong love of Laurie Anderson.

He’d follow it with something like Babybird’s Hong Kong Blues, a lo-fi Casio keyboard number that lamented the human rights of the citizens after the (then) upcoming handover of Hong Kong to the Chinese Republic ‘’Can’t sleep can’t snooze, soon the don’ts will kill the do’s’’ Babybird, of course, went on to have a good few hit singles, qnd Radcliffe was ahead of the curve on so much of the Britpop movement.

mp3: Laurie Anderson – O Superman
mp3: Baby Bird – Hong Kong Blues

When the show started, I’d just moved ‘home’ to a small town in Scotland. Moving to a new place when you’re 18 is harder than when you’re 8 (which is when I’d left Scotland). It’s hard to make friends or get involved in things, especially when the town is small and there’s nothing to get involved in.

At 18 you can’t just go up to someone and say ‘Oh you like Star Wars? let’s be friends’ Do that in the west of Scotland and you’ll get walloped (trust me on this). For my first year back in Scotland the Radcliffe show became my best friend. Working the late shift in Safeway, I’d rush home in time for 10pm, if I couldn’t make it my mother was under strict instructions to press play and record on my cassette deck. During this time Mark and Lard introduced me to John Hegley.

Hegley was a performance poet who regularly appeared on the show (see! Pebble Mill for NME readers). His poems were witty and funny and tackled subjects from the most offbeat angles. Up until then I thought that poetry was about wandering lonely as a cloud.

Hegley was also an occasional musical guest, he’d been in a band called The Popticians. His album Saint and Blurry includes the classic Eddie Don’t Like Furniture.

mp3: The Popticians – Eddie Don’t Like Furniture

Other poets appeared on the show, including Ian MacMillan, Joolz Denby and Simon Armitage ,(who, in 2019, would become Poet Laureate).  It spurred my own interests to be a performer.

In 1995, I moved to London in time for the arse-end of the good bits of Britpop, just before it became all Three Lions, TFI and Nuts mag. I’d made some pretty big moves from the age of 16, never really settling down, never really feeling at home, even when I was ‘back home’. I felt like a nomad, so it was easy, in London, to fit right in. I brought with me the Radcliffe show as an anchor to normality. By this time the show was pretty much a crystal ball for who will be cool AF next. Step forward Belle and Sebastian and their song The State That I Am In which was seemingly played every other night. Listener response to the track led to a session and then to a deal with Jeepster Records (I wonder what happened to them).

The show still had one eye on leftfield. For instance, they gave a session to The Adventures of Parsley who were a band that covered TV theme tunes and they were playing Little Star by Stina Nordenstam two years before it gained world wide fame on the Romeo and Juliet soundtrack. Thank you Mark for allowing me to be the ‘’You’re only just hearing this now? I’ve owned that for ages’’ type of bellend.

I mentioned earlier about it being a cultural hub. As well as poetry, the show featured regular slots for Katie Puckrick who spoke on art or America or feminism or whoever was cool in her scene. Mark Kermode’s reputation as THE film buff was enhanced with his reviews and chats. He wrote and printed a Bladerunner fact sheet for anyone who sent in an SAE. They ran out of copies in weeks. Imagine that, sending off for a photocopy of a piece of paper for info on a film! Years later things like this would be rendered obsolete by dial-up internet connections which were almost as fast as waiting for a letter to arrive from the BBC. I sent off for mine and it never did turn up, A fact I shout at the TV whenever Kermode is on. Don’t trust a man who sounds like a bedpan, that’s what I say.

Kim Newman would host a regular TV section. Usually cult TV. The show was steeped in TV pop culture, the Dangerman Theme was the intro and outro music, while during the show there’d be regular jokes at the expense of On The Buses or John Inman or the entertainment industry in general.

Their disdain is also evident in the skits about former Oasis drummer Tony McCarroll, or the ‘Great Moments In Pop’ that lampooned Radio One’s own rather naff Simon Batesian output. Their own sketches and songs were a match for a lot of comedy of the day. There was even two compilations of their ‘material’ – The Worst….. Album In The World, Ever (based on a popular compilation series at the time) and Our Kid, Eh? punning Radiohead. My favourite of these is probably a wonderful take-off of Nick Cave about the spiralling fortunes of the current Manchester City football team. Not a lot of people can pull that off.

mp3 : Dick Cave & The Bad Cheese feat. Alan Bawl (No relation) – The Ballad of Franny Lee

Like a lot of late night radio shows, they featured live sessions. A lot of BBC radio sessions would be pre-recorded but Radcliffe’s tended to be live, so it often featured a chat with the acts before hand. That was the pull of the show, it was able to get bands into a live studio between 10pm and midnight and keep them sober enough to play. All the ‘big boys of Britpop’ were featured at some point (Oasis did their first ever session on a previous Radcliffe show called Hit The North in 1992).

The indie ‘Old Guard’ were also keen to be own the show, James delivered a wonderful version of Come Home, so good in fact they released it as a b-side to their Tomorrow single. They provided the middle ground between The Evening Session and Peel with live stints from The Orb, Townes Van Zandt and John Cale. You could make a claim that Helen Love owe their career to Radcliffe’s continual support and sessions. Anecdotal as it is, almost everyone I know first heard them on the Graveyard Shift.

mp3 : Helen Love – Summer Pop Radio

Reflecting on what I’ve written, I don’t feel my words are doing them justice. There’s so much more like John Shuttleworth, Caitlin Moran, Guitarist with long hair, Get To Bed, Frank Sidebottom, Classical Gas, Will Self, Shit Agent or just general Mark and Lard interactions, they spoke like they were a couple Mancunian lads in a pub together and they’d invited you along –

Mark:  ‘There’s a free single by Dawn of the Replicants called Cocaine on the Catwalk all you need to do is send the price of postage’

Lard: ‘it’s not free then is it’

Mark:  ‘if you call round you’ll get one for nowt’

Lard:  ‘Ahhh right you are, our kid’

The later shows became a little more Britpop centric, it seemed that they were riding that crest. From 1994 until 1996 Radcliffe got his own Channel Four show, The White Room. It was a cracking bit of Friday Night TV but it came with a truckload of foreshadowing. As did the song Your Woman by White Town. In late 1996, Mark & Lard had championed the song for it to then break through to the mainstream and became number 1.

mp3 : White Town – Your Woman

So it was a minor tragedy for music fans when they both moved to the Breakfast Show in early 1997. The tragedy being that they more or less had to obey the Radio One playlist. One of the main things about their appeal was that you’d get Eric MatthewsFanfare played next something like Emerson Lake and Palmer’s Fanfare For The Common Man (Mark ‘’We don’t play a lot of ELP, do we?’’ Lard ‘’Most of it’s shite’’).

After several months as the Breakfast show presenters. they eventually found themselves on the afternoon slot. The show tried to recapture the same feel the Graveyard shift had. It was good, certainly better than anything that had been on that slot previously (I’m looking at you Steve Wright and The Afternoon Public School Posse of Fucknuggets) but it wasn’t the same.

I stopped being a radio fan and became a casual listener when the late-night show ended. The Graveyard Shift will forever be for me, THE best radio show in the best time slot at the best time for new music in my lifetime. But then I was 18 and everyone thinks like that at 18.

Radio One is rubbish again now… but that’s the point, a point that Bruno Brookes or Dave Lee Travis could never get. It’s not meant for me. I’m supposed to think it’s rubbish, if I’m enjoying Radio One, then they’ve massively dropped the ball again.

On a side note to that – Kids if your parents can come to a gig with you then your music tastes fucking suck. Your parents aren’t supposed to like what you like. No wonder the country has gone to shit. Up your fucking game.

Steve McLean

SO, WHAT SHOULD WE NOW CALL THIS EP?

From wiki:-

The Dixie-Narco EP is an extended play by the British band Primal Scream, released in February 1992 on Creation Records. Recorded at Ardent Studios in Memphis, this was the only official Primal Scream release to contain the song “Screamadelica”, which was not used on their Screamadelica album. The song later appeared on the 20th anniversary edition of Screamadelica and on Shoot Speed – More Dirty Hits.

An interesting thing to note is that the link on the wiki page to an All Music review of the EP now just takes you to something that is no longer there. I’m thinking it may have been quietly removed on the back of this news story:-

The Dixie Chicks Change Their Name, Dropping the ‘Dixie’

The Dixie Chicks are now the Chicks.

The platinum-selling country trio, which in 2003 became pariahs in Nashville for criticizing President George W. Bush on the eve of the American-led invasion of Iraq, has changed its name, apparently in tacit acknowledgment of criticism over its use of the word “Dixie,” a nostalgic nickname for the Civil War-era South.

The group made the change stealthily on Thursday, releasing a new video as the Chicks and adjusting its social media presence. Representatives for the band confirmed the new name.

In a brief statement on its new website, the band states simply: “We want to meet this moment.” The new video, “March March,” features images of current and historical protests — for women’s rights, gay rights, environmental causes and Black Lives Matter.

For the Dixie Chicks, the pressure had come over its use of the word Dixie, with commentary in the news media pushing the group to change its name just as the country debates issues like removing Confederate monuments.

The name change comes ahead of the release of the group’s first album in 14 years, “Gaslighter,” due out on July 17.

Bobby Gillespie‘s political views are well-known, and there is no question that if the EP in question was being issued today, it would not carry that particular title. More likely that it would adopt the name of its lead track, Movin’ On Up, or perhaps the name of one of its three other songs, but most likely not Screamadelica as that would only cause confusion.

The EP is long out of print, certainly on vinyl, with decent quality copies going for £10 and upwards on Discogs. I’d be surprised if there’s all that many CD versions lying around in shops or stores. The other piece of good news is that the tunes on the EP don’t appear to be available on a stand-alone basis, but can be found as part of the 20th Anniversary expanded edition of the Screamadelica album.

These are from the vinyl. I’ve already renamed the EP within my i-tunes library:-

mp3: Primal Scream – Movin’ On Up
mp3: Primal Scream – Stone My Soul
mp3: Primal Scream – Carry Me Home
mp3: Primal Scream – Screamadelica

For anyone not familiar with the release, it’s worth mentioning that Screamadelica, coming in at almost 11 glorious minutes in length, takes up one side of the vinyl, with the remaining tracks on the flip side.

Carry Me Home is a song penned by Dennis Wilson, intended for inclusion on The Beach Boys album, Holland, released in 1973 but it never made the cut.  To the best of my knowledge, it has never had a formal or authorised release on any Beach Boys record.

JC

THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF R.E.M. (Part 3)

Since coming back to vinyl, inspired by taking up this blogging nonsense back in 2006, I’ve picked up some second-hand early singles by R.E.M., all for nothing more than £1 or £2 as that was back in the days when folk were still looking to clear homes of what they regarded as useless junk. Besides, all the tracks, including b-sides could be found on compilation CDs as IRS did everything they could think of to cash in on the world-wide fame that had come in the early 9os with the albums on Warner Bros.

The band’s third UK 45, from March 1984, is my oldest single. It’s the lead-off from the sophomore album, Reckoning, which was released the following month (not that I was paying attention at the time – I was obsessed with The Smiths)

mp3: R.E.M. – So. Central Rain

A song so timeless and enduring that the band was performing it as part of the live sets until almost the very end. It’s hard to imagine, but the very distinctive and memorable opening few notes were only added at a very late stage in the recording process. The band knew they had a classic on their hands but as Peter Buck would later explain:-

“[Producers] Mitch Easter and Don Dixon had the idea that the intro was weak — which it was. They came in early one day, and Don took a little guitar hook out of the chorus and stuck it on the front of the song. In those days, you physically had to cut the tapes up and splice them back into a new position, so it wasn’t quite as simple as it is now. When we came in, they played it to us, and we went, ‘Wow! That’s great!’ ”

It’s a song whose title doesn’t appear in the lyric, and this the reason why the sleeve advised that the name of the track was So.Central Rain (I’m Sorry), just in case any unassuming would-be purchaser wasn’t entirely sure of what they were trying to track down.

The 7″ and 12″ releases came with different b-sides, and again there was a reliance on cover versions:

7″

mp3: R.E.M. – Walter’s Theme/King Of The Road

The former is a short, 90-second long instrumental, aside from a couple of spoken/sung lines and yelps from Michael Stipe that leads immediately into a country-band style cover of the Roger Miller classic that seems to be been captured live in the studio, possibly from a jam. Worth mentioning that the 7″ refers to it as being just the one song:-

12″

mp3: R.E.M. – Pale Blue Eyes

Voice of Harold features the same tune as 7 Chinese Bros., the second track on Reckoning. I’m not sure if it is an earlier effort with the tune or it was just the band having a bit of fun in the studio as the lyric on the b-side is Stipe simply reading out, in time with the tune, the notes that appear on the back of The Joy Of Knowing Jesus by The Revelaires, a gospel album that happened to be in the studio in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The second track is another Velvet Underground cover, not quite as shambolic as There She Goes Again, but again, it’s nothing all that special.

JC

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #218 : MY LATEST NOVEL

My Latest Novel were part of the music scene in Scotland from around 2005-2010, releasing two critically acclaimed albums of indie/folk, as well as touring extensively, either around small venues as headliners, or in larger spaces as support acts to, among others, Arab Strap, Low and British Sea Power.  I even recall them opening for Scritti Politti at a gig in Edinburgh in 2006.

The five-piece consisted of Chris Deveney, Gary Deveney, Paul McGeachy, Laura McFarlane and Ryan King, all from the town of Greenock some 20 miles west of Glasgow.  They were a cultured band, relying heavily on violins, xylophones, multi-part vocals and percussion, as well as the traditional guitar, bass and drums.  They were occasionally referred to in the local press as a less bombastic and less frantic Arcade Fire.

I used the word ‘were’ as I had long assumed the band had broken up after Paul and Laura left in 2010, but there’s still an active twitter account that states, in the intro:-

“We’re a band! We’re Gary, Chris, Paul and Ryan. We’re on Bella Union Records. We live and have fun in Scotland!”

So it seems that somewhere along the line, Paul has rejoined. In saying that, there hasn’t been any new material released since the second album, Deaths and Entrances, in 2009. This is taken from that piece of work:-

mp3: My Latest Novel – All In All In All Is All

I gave both of their albums listen for the first time in many years when I was putting this piece together.  (The debut was Wolves, released in 2006). I had forgotten how understatedly enjoyable they were.

JC

MY BAG

These words are taken from the Lloyd Cole & The Commotions ICA, posted away back in April 2015; it was #11 in this then, relatively new series.

1. My Bag

In a sense this song from 1987’s Mainstream LP is very unrepresentative of the band’s output but it is such a cracking bit of music that it is impossible to ignore. The intention here is to kick things off with a ridiculously uptempo dance number where the beat is what matters rather than the lyrics.

I was actually going to start things off with the Dancing Mix of this song which extends to over six minutes in length but to be honest, and despite Lawrence Donegan making you think, via his bass playing, that you could easily be listening to something which could be from Michael Jackson in his classic era before he went all crazy on us, the mix has dated appallingly – particularly the drums – while the idea of burying the guitar during the chorus is just so wrong.

But, given I’m sort of struggling for a post today, here we go:-

mp3: Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – My Bag (Dancing Mix)

The remix was remixed by a combination of Ian Stanley (who had produced the album, Mainstream, on which the original version had appeared) and the Commotions.

The 12″ came with two b-sides, one of which I posted on the old blog with a heavy heart and a huge apology, for it truly is an abomination of a number:-

mp3: Commotions Meet The Irresistible Force – Perfect Skin

The Irresistible Force was the name adopted by Morris Gould, a DJ from Brighton who was really making a name for himself in 1987 as part of the emerging acid house scene, becoming in due course the full-time DJ with The Shamen. He may have done some other stuff that is writing home about (I honestly don’t know!!), but I don’t play or listen to this.

The other track on the b-side was this:-

mp3: Lloyd Cole & The Commotions- Jesus Said

Very much LC and his band by numbers. It wouldn’t have sounded out of place on the first couple of albums, which is no surprise as it dates from 1985 and the sessions around the recording of Easy Pieces.

It’s worth mentioning that the USA release of My Bag featured an entirely different mix, one that was the work of NY-based but French-born DJ and producer François Kevorkian:-

mp3: Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – My Bag (Dancing Remix)

My Bag was the seventh single from Lloyd Cole & The Commotions. It stalled at #46, which was a bitter disappointment for all concerned after all three singles from Easy Pieces had been hits. It marked the beginning of the gradual dissolution of the band, with the main man going solo from 1990.

JC

AND ALL THE GIRLS JUST SCREAMED

A few months back, my dear friend Robert, one of the team involved in the Simply Thrilled nights, laid down a 30-day song challenge on Facebook. I naturally accepted, given it was another chance to show off my exquisite musical tastes although I tried hard to stay mainstream this time. I was tempted to share all of them with you today, but most of the tracks will have featured on the blog at one point or another over the years.

But not the song for Day 12, which had to be something from my pre-teen years.

I went with this:-

mp3: David Essex – Rock On

David Essex was our home-grown equivalent of Donny Osmond and David Cassidy, with his music selling by the millions, particularly to teenage girls who would scream the place down at the gigs and shows.  At the age of 10/11, and having no interest in anything much beyond sport and music, the teenybop element of the thing didn’t really register with me as the screaming etc. wasn’t allowed on Top of The Pops and I wasn’t the least bit bothered by the fact that certain mates called me ‘a poof’ for liking his music.  The only acceptable music in the gang was glam-rock, with Slade, The Sweet and Gary Glitter all the rage.

Rock On sounded unlike any other song I’d ever heard in my life.  The young me couldn’t explain it, but looking back it was perhaps the first indication that my ears were attuned to something just a bit out of the ordinary, albeit with sales of many millions and a #3 placing in the charts, I was far from being alone in loving it.  It’s the sparse, yet full arrangement that drags the listener in – there’s not a lot of music to get caught up in for the first half of the song and the vocal delivery just seems to fit like a glove.  I’ve heard a few cover versions over the years, but they have never come close to being decent far less capture the magic of these three and a bit minutes.  I even have one in the collection, courtesy of its inclusion on the bonus disc to a ‘best of’:-

mp3: Smashing Pumpkins – Rock On

(Warning…….this cover is ridiculously overblown, overlong and incredibly tiresome, a long way from the sort of stuff from Mr Corgan and his mates that I’ve enjoyed over the years).

I’d continue to enjoy the next few David Essex singles – Lamplight, Gonna Make You A Star, and Stardust – but the decision to go for easy-listening pop, as a precursor to returning to his musical theatre roots, had me turning my nose up in future years.  And the advent of punk/new wave meant that David Essex could only be mentioned in hushed whispers, and even then, to a very select few.  You can take this is my confession.

One final thing.  The first time I heard Sign ‘O’ The Times, I was reminded of the opening few notes to Rock On – blame it on the basslines.

JC

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #254 : CHRIS ISSAK

A GUEST POSTING by HSF

My family just (re)watched Good Will Hunting… You know that line: “I gotta go see about a girl.”? Well, in a nutshell, that’s my story.

When I moved to Santa Cruz, I had a gf I’d left in NYC. The broad sweeps of how that long-distance relationship ended most can imagine. Let’s just say mistakes were made on all sides. During my first Fall in the UCSC Soc program I played for the grad student softball team. During one game, with a team of university staff and recent alumni (all of whom were friends with my teammates), this young woman, Diane, was playing third base.

She cleanly, and smoothly, fielded the first hot shot hit to her, cocked her arm, stepped into it and overthrew first base. She was a friend so everyone on my team affectionately lit into her. Second ball, fielded smoothly, thrown harder, only even further over the guy playing first base. What a cannon for an arm! She could hit, field, throw and was fast on the basepaths. I was also playing Ultimate for the university team and a club team – there’s a TON of Ultimate in Santa Cruz – and Diane was also out on the fields for the women’s team, and some co-ed, too. I was intrigued.

We’d became friends, as much as friends of friends are, when I finished the core seminars and passed the stupid stress-test proving to the faculty that I had learned enough to continue past the Masters degree and seek to earn a PhD.

A week later, I started working as a Teaching Assistant, and then as a Research Assistant for the Dean. In that building was the Environmental Studies Library/Resource Center and the person who ran it? Diane. We started doing the NYTimes crossword puzzle most days and periodically ran into one another riding our bicycles up the path across the three limestone terraces above the Monterey Bay and into the redwoods where campus buildings are nestled.

All this was as things were getting weirder in the long-distance thing. Diane and I started doing more things together and, eventually, the rest became history. BUT… I was a Lyres, Minutemen, Fall, Replacements, Meat Puppets, Mekons and Sonic Youth young man and Diane was a Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Aerosmith, Toots and the Maytals, and Tom Petty young woman. Yet, we were smitten. Common ground quickly emerged – Neil Young helped a lot and, even after becoming too serious and a college radio wanker, I’d always liked Tom Petty. It turned out she was OK with a lot of unconventional music – even if a lot of what I was playing at the radio station made her roll her eyes and shake her head.

TBH, I don’t know if Diane played me Silvertone or Chris Isaak’s self-titled record before she said we should go see him at the Catalyst – the larger-than-a-bar but not-really-a-major-venue stage in town. Have I mentioned that I LOVE good surf-western-spy-monster-drag strip guitar? The bad stuff’s pure shit but, by the early 80s, I’d long loved Rumble and Miserlou and, when the Insect Surfers sent their 1983 EP, Sonar Safari, to my radio station, I was blown away.

So, we go to the show and, as someone said in a YouTube comment – it was like Elvis and Roy Orbison had a baby with Dwayne Eddy as the nanny. The band came out first and – echoing The Ian Hunter Band’s early 80s shows where Mick Ronson would come out and play the theme to FBIJames Wilsey (previously the guitarist for the punk band, The Avengers, fronted by Penelope Houston) and the rhythm section came out and played a really cool surf and punk inspired instrumental.

At that point all the lights went out and a moment or two later, a black light beam lit up Isaak, who was wearing a seriously oversized glow-in-the-dark remarkably over-embroidered suit and main show started. I don’t remember if the show was part of the tour in support of Heart Shaped World or if it was before the release and the tour, but the songs were good, the cover tunes perfectly chosen and a wonderful time was had by all. Isaak was an excellent front man, had a number of “remarkable” suits into which he changed at different times. Oh, yeah, and he can sing, and some songs you bounce around to and others are clearly intended for more intimate shared motions. Like I said, a good night.

We saw him again a year or two later, after Wilsey had been kicked out of the band – creative differences or Wilsey’s drug use, or both, apparently the cause – and the new guitarist, and Isaak taking over some of the leads, just wasn’t the same. It was a fun evening but nowhere near as good.

I haven’t include Wicked Game here, if you haven’t heard it – yes, even though it was thirty years ago – I’m surprised… it’s been used by David Lynch in films, covered a hundred times and recently used in a Game of Thrones trailer. Also, the use of supermodel Helena Christensen in the video has always struck me as a brilliant but cheap trick. The set, here, starts with Isaak’s cover of Neil Diamond’s 1966 hit, Solitary Man, off of 1993’s San Francisco Days. To my mind, it’s far superior to the original. It’s followed by 1989’s Nothing’s Changed off of Heart Shaped World. These tunes distill the essence of his mastery of the tragic ballad while Blue Hotel illustrates how those ballads often transition into rock when played live.

Kings of the Highway, either because of the solo in the middle or the whammy bar at the end or… I don’t know, is probably my favorite song of his. Maybe it’s related to the first show. Tears is from Silvertone and the first time you get that oh-so-controlled falsetto, though it’s not the focus. I waffle when it comes to Somebody’s Crying. It’s got a fabulous strolling pace, it’s a love song that’s a lost love song but it’s joyously tragic. I mean, really, how the heck are you supposed to feel listening to this? There’s a 2006 live version worth checking out… true to and better than the studio version.

Wrong to Love You is an evening-into-nighttime love song… if you haven’t by this time in the ICA, it becomes clear that there are limits to the range of material Isaak performs. He has a clear style and doesn’t stray far from it. In his case, I think it limited the duration of his success while generating absolutely committed fans. As a master of his style, though, one of the things I like about him is that when he reworks a song to make it his own it just about always works. Witness Heart Full of Soul, which drops the psychedelia for West Texas in 1958… it’s tweaked just enough to be perfect for him.

There are a lot of folks who label what Isaak does rockabilly or roots rock but I think the way to understand it is coming out of the early rock tradition that drew a bit more from country and western and folk than from the blues. Rock is as polyglot a tradition as there is and you can really hear the Country & Western – you know, as they old joke goes, BOTH kinds of music – in Gone Ridin’ the song that first gained Isaak attention from David Lynch and probably set his career seriously in motion.

I decided to end the ICA with a song from one of James Wilsey’s solo records – San Bernardino, from 2008’s El Dorado – given how pivotal his playing he was to making Isaak’s career and, to my mind, how much the music’s not met the standard of the first three records since the two parted. Wilsey died Christmas Day two years ago after a long battle with drug abuse and it’s associated consequences – that sucks.

Chris Isaak – Solitary Man (Neil Diamond), from San Francisco Days (1993)
Chris Isaak – Nothing’s Changed, off of Heart Shaped World (1989)
Chris Isaak – Blue Hotel, on Chris Isaak (1986)
Chris Isaak – Kings of the Highway, from Heart Shaped World (1989)
Chris Isaak – Tears, off of Silvertone (1985)
Chris Isaak – Somebody’s Crying, on Forever Blue (1995)
Chris Isaak – Wrong to Love You, from Heart Shaped World (1989)
Chris Isaak – Heart Full of Soul (Yardbirds), off of Chris Isaak (1986)
Chris Isaak – Gone Ridin’, from Silvertone (1985 – though this is Live on Center Stage, 2006)
James Wilsey – San Bernardino, off of El Dorado (2008)

HSF

FROM THE BIG BOX OF CASSETTE TAPES : CREATION TAPE

Given away with the April 1992 edition of Select Magazine, one that came with Kurt Cobain on the cover. Otherwise, it was an issue packed with t-shirt bands such as James, Carter USM and Senseless Things.

 

Eleven songs all told, and , as normal with Select, there were a couple of pages devoted to providing some more details about each of them, with a band member or solo performer quoted in a short interview style.

The wider selling point was was that three of the tracks were ‘exclusive unreleased’, three were demos, one was a remix and the other four were edits.  It was also given an official catalogue number by the label – C-RE 128.

NB : Tape and songs were previously featured on this blog back in February 2014.

A1: Boo Radleys – Lazy Day (version)
A2: Swervedriver – Son of Mustang Ford (demo version)
A3: Teenage Fanclub – Kylie’s Got A Crush On Us (unreleased – recorded live at a soundcheck)
A4: Silverfish – Vitriola (demo version)
A5: Love Corporation – Gimme Some Love (remix)

B1: Ride – Time Of Her Time (live version)
B2: mk – Play The World (edit)
B3: The Telescopes – You Set My Soul (unreleased)
B4: Slowdive – Shine (edit)
B5: Sheer Taft – Atlantis (edit)
B6: Bill Drummond – The Manager’s Speech (edit)

Copies can be found on Discogs for £1.99 (plus P&P) mostly from European-based sellers.  It would likely all add up to not far short a fiver all told.

Regular readers will know that Bill Drummond is a hero of mine and someone I have long reckoned is a bonafide genius.

Here are the words from the magazine which accompanied The Manager’s Speech:-

It is 1986 and Bill Drummond, former manager of Echo & The Bunnymen, The Teardrop Explodes and Strawberry Switchblade, has just quit his post as Head of A&R at Korova. The label’s last signing is Brilliant, soon to be produced by SAW and featuring Jimmy Cauty.

Drummond signs to Creation for an album, modestly titled ‘Bill Drummond – The Man’, awash with anarchic Country & Western and infamous for the track ‘Julian Cope Is Dead’. He releases a 12-inch single, ‘King Of Joy’ and Creation want a video and B-side. He elects to make a ten-minute promotional clip of himself pushing a street-cleaner’s dustcart through a park, a gold disc stuck on the front, a guitar in the bin, “spontaneously pontificating” on the subject of pop stardom.  The opening section appears on the Select tape.

BILL DRUMMOND: “I did it cos it was cheap and we needed a B-side. It’s a sort of layman’s eye-view of the pop business. The view of some guy you meet in a pub, or a cab driver, and you make the terrible mistake of letting him know you’re in the music business and he starts giving you his theory about it – ‘Fuckin’ Duran Duran, eh?…..’ It was kind of cynical but I really felt I had a future as an artist rather than someone behind the scenes”.

A year later Drummond and Cauty release their first single as The JAMMS. Shortly after they mutate into The KLF.

I’ve tracked down said clip.

 

JC

 

THIS BLOG IS READ (OCCASIONALLY) BY A GRAMMY WINNER

So……

Last Friday, I put up the posting that breaks down all the songs sampled in Weapon of Choice by Fatboy Slim.  I opened it up with a reference to the astonishing video that was made to accompany the single which had been filmed in the lobby of the Marriot Hotel in Los Angeles.

I was meant to be in LA last week and while in the city, I had intended to ask my host, Jonny the Friendly Lawyer, if we would be able to include a quick look inside the hotel during any sightseeing tours.  It turns out that I would have enjoyed something much more special.  Here’s the opening email from JTFL after he saw the Fatboy Slim posting:-

“When you finally get here, we’ll walk round the corner to meet my friend, Vince.  He was Spike Jonze’s partner for years and the grammy he won for the Fatboy Slim video is sitting on top of the piano in his front room!

Love and weirdness from LA – J”

This led to an exchange of emails in which Jonny explained how he came to meet Vince through running a local youth soccer progamme together.  It took a long while before Vince mentioned he was involved in the entertainment industry, which is seemingly quite unusual behaviour in LA as there’s something of a boastful culture.   Jonny went onto say that Vince is just a regular guy who likes hanging out and talking trash about music etc. before the big reveal that he is known to dip in and out of this blog, his interest having been grabbed through some of Jonny’s guest contributions.

WTF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The easiest thing to do is cut’n’paste some of the bio from IMDb:-

Academy Award® nominated producer Vincent Landay is the co-founder of Unbranded Pictures.

Landay, whose producing credits include such acclaimed films as “Her”, “Being John Malkovich”, “Adaptation”, and “Where The Wild Things Are”, is best known for his successful collaboration with director Spike Jonze. Their partnership has been fruitful ever since its inception over 25 years ago: music videos for bands such as Arcade Fire, Kanye West & Jay Z, REM, Björk, Weezer, Fatboy Slim and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and commercials for Nike, Adidas, Ikea, Levis, and most recently Apple have led to numerous awards, including the Grammys, the Emmys, MTV and the prestigious Cannes Lions Festival.

Their feature collaborations have received a combined twelve Academy Award® (Oscar) nominations and have also been recognized with awards by the Golden Globes, the Producers Guild of America, BAFTA, the American Film Institute, the MTV Movie Awards, and the Independent Spirit Awards. Landay is also a three-time Producer’s Guild nominee for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures.

Landay produced the HBO documentary “Tell Them Anything You Want: A Portrait of Maurice Sendak”, that Jonze co-directed with Lance Bangs as well as the acclaimed Directors Label DVD Series that featured the collected short-form work of Jonze, Chris Cunningham & Michel Gondry. The short films he has produced include “I’m Here””, a 30-minute robot love story starring Andrew Garfield, that premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival and the Berlin International Film Festival; and “Scenes from the Suburbs, a collaboration between Jonze & Arcade Fire that premiered at the 2011 Berlin International Film Festival & SXSW.

Outside of his two decades of collaboration with Jonze, Landay has worked with directors David Fincher, David Lynch, Harmony Korine, John Dahl, Michael Bay, Roman Coppola, and Todd Field, among others.

I think it’s fair to say that the vast majority of readers of this blog will have enjoyed something that Vince has been involved in over the years.  I mentioned to Jonny that getting the chance to meet Vince would be a ‘huge honour’ for which he slapped me down by saying it wouldn’t even be a tiny honour!  Either way, it’s got me even more hyper-excited about eventually rescheduling the trip to LA in a post-coronavirus world, and if you happen to read this particular posting Vince, many thanks for helping to bring such happiness and entertainment to Villain Towers over many years.

Here’s a very small selection of songs whose promos were produced by Vince:-

mp3: Weezer – Buddy Holly
mp3: Daft Punk – Da Funk
mp3: Bjork – It’s Oh So Quiet
mp3: R.E.M. – Crush With Eyeliner

Still can’t quite believe all of this.

JC

THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF R.E.M. (Part 2)

SWC has provided some outstanding entertainment over the past few months but it is now time for Sundays to be returned to its traditional slot of looking at the UK singles released over the years by a singer or band.  The spotlight was most recently shone on The Auteurs/Luke Haines, while previous efforts have included Simple Minds, Marc Almond, Paul Haig, Grinderman, New Order, XTC, Undertones, Buzzcocks, Cinerama, The Clash, The Style Council, The Jam, Altered Images, and James.

It’s fair to say that some efforts have been better received than others and a few suffered from fatigue in that they covered too long a period and/or some 45s were pretty sub-standard.  There’s a chance that by deciding to go with R.E.M. that something similar will happen, but hopefully not for a long while.  This will, all being well, run for over a year…..

And the reason it is kicking off with Part 2 is all down to the fact that Radio Free Europe, featured, very recently, as part of the great debut singles feature.

The Hib-Tone version of Radio Free Europe was released in July 1981 and was a USA-only release.  The same was true for the next piece of vinyl, the Chronic Town EP in August 1982.  A year later, the band re-recorded the debut single for inclusion on the LP Murmur, and new label, IRS, decided to issue it as a single.  It charted at #78 at home but didn’t do anything in the UK.  For the sake of completeness, and to bring this long and rambling into to a merciful conclusion, here is its b-side:-

mp3: R.E.M. – There She Goes Again

It’s a rather perfunctory cover of The Velvet Underground song.  This was one of the first songs I ever heard by R.E.M. and I thought it was so dismal that it put me off them for a long time – it would take until the release of Document in 1987 before I began to pay proper interest.

Let’s quickly move on to November 1983.

IRS issued Talk About The Passion as a promo-only 12″ single in the USA with the two b-sides, Catapult, and Sitting Still, similarly taken from Murmur.  Here in the UK, the track was given a proper, if somewhat limited release, on 12″ vinyl with Shaking Through, also from Murmur, included while the flip-side offered up two of the tracks from the otherwise unavailable Chronic Town EP:-

mp3: R.E.M. – Talk About The Passion
mp3: R.E.M. – Shaking Through
mp3: R.E.M. – Carnival of Sorts (Box Cars)
mp3: R.E.M. – 1,000,000

I can now totally understand why the early singles and debut album had such an impact on those who picked up on the band at the very beginning, but I still feel that ‘Passion’, after an amazing instrumental opening and initially mesmeric vocal delivery, folds in on itself after about two minutes and becomes repetitive and I find myself switching off.

The b-sides are all reasonable enough without really setting any heather on fire.  I certainly don’t think they were, or are, as memorable and timeless as many of the UK singles from indie-guitar bands that I was more familiar with back in 1983.

Bring on the brickbats………

JC

BREAKING IT ALL DOWN : WEAPON OF CHOICE

This might be a one-off, or it might turn into an occasional series. It’s a series that will require a fair bit of digging and research and there will be extended periods of time when I can’t be bothered with that. But, as with everything else, the dancefloor is open to anyone wanting to try similar via a guest posting.

Weapon of Choice was a Top 10 hit for Fatboy Slim back in 2001.

mp3: Fatboy Slim – Weapon of Choice

I was sure it had reached #1, but that’s only on account of how often the video was aired at the time. And quite rightly so, as Spike Jonze‘s direction of Christopher Walken shaking his thang in the Marriot Hotel in Los Angeles is a magnificent few minutes of footage that picked up all sorts of awards in due course.

I’ll pick up now from wiki:-

“Weapon of Choice” features Parliament-Funkadelic and Bootsy’s Rubber Band bassist Bootsy Collins, who provides the lead vocals. On the album version, Collins’s normal vocals are heard through the right audio channel; the same vocals, distorted to a much deeper pitch, are heard through the left. The song features a prominent sample of Sly & the Family Stone’s 1968 song “Into My Own Thing”, as well as samples from “All Strung Out Over You” by The Chambers Brothers and “Word Play” by The X-Ecutioners.

The chorus of the song, “You could blow with this, or you could blow with that…”, is a homage to the Black Sheep song “The Choice Is Yours (Revisited)”, which features a similar chorus.

And here comes the breakdown.

Into My Own Thing was the fifth track on Side A of the album Life. The opening notes will be instantly recognisable to those only familiar with Fatboy Slim.

mp3: Sly and The Family Stone – Into My Own Thing

All Strung Out Over You was a modest hit single for The Chambers Brothers in 1967. It was also the opening track on Side A of the album The Time Has Come. It’s this tune that provides the initial tempo and rhythm for Weapon of Choice.

mp3: The Chambers Brothers – All Strung Out Over You

The X-Ecutioners are New York-based hip hop DJs/turntablists and Word Play appears on their debut album, X-Pressions that was released in 1997. There’s a number of samples to be found on the Fatboy Slim single, including the lyric about funk getting your teeth smoked.

mp3: The X-Ecutioners – Word Play

As mentioned earlier, the chorus is based on The Choice Is Yours (Revisited) a song released in 1991 by NYC-based hip-hop act, Black Sheep, that was a single and a track on their debut album A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing.  The Choice Is Yours itself relied on a number of samples, – “Keep on Doin’ It” by The New Birth, “Her Favorite Style” by Iron Butterfly, “Big Sur Suite” by Johnny Hammond Smith, “Impressions” by McCoy Tyner, and “I’d Say It Again” by Sweet Linda Divine. But I ain’t going there.

mp3: Black Sheep – The Choice Is Yours (Revisited)

Anyone got suggestions on what track to break down next time around? Or, even better, does anyone want to have a go at it??

JC

THE BIG HITS…..30 YEARS ON (6)

June 1990.  My first birthday spent with Rachel.  She tried to book a last-minute trip to Italia 90 to take in Scotland v Brazil but there was just no room at the inn.  We ended up heading to Albufeira in Portugal where we watched a number of matches in various pubs that were packed with tourists from all parts of Europe – lots of great memories.

We weren’t the type to go clubbing as we felt ancient, but thinking on it now, we weren’t….it was just that the pure dance music of the era wasn’t our scene.  We were, however, enjoying some of the stuff that had a bit of an indie-bent to it, and many of the tracks that have been featured in previous editions of this feature, soundtracked that first happy summer together. As you’ll find out, June 1990 itself was a far from vintage month for new singles.

It began with EnglandNewOrder at the top of the pile.  It ended with Luciana Pavarotti battling for the #1 spot as folks rushed to buy his version of Nessun Dorma that had soundtracked the BBC coverage of the World Cup.  Football and music were now interlinked in a way that I hadn’t ever really experienced – interesting to note that the other #1 in the month of June 1990 was Sacrifice by Elton John who was one of the few pop superstars to have previously linked his fame with a love of the great game, having invested in his local and unfashionable club at Watford in the mid 70s and become its chair.

But’s that’s enough of the all-our-yesterdays stuff from me. Here’s the music.

Touched By The Hand of Cicciolina – Pop Will Eat Itself

See….I wasn’t bullshitting about the omnipresence of football and music in the month of June 1990.  PWEI had released eight singles prior to this, with only Can U Dig It ever scraping into the Top 40.  But they came to greater prominence with this magnificent celebration of Italia 90, combining a house tune, sampled football commentary and a lyric that paid homage to Italy’s best-known hardcore porn star.  The single came complete with a cheeky sticker on the sleeve that declared it the “unofficial World Cup Theme”.  Entered the charts on 3 June at #28, stayed in that position the following week and then dropped out quickly as soon as the tournament was over.

It’s still an incredible sounding piece of music.

Lazyitis – One Armed Boxer – Happy Mondays with Karl Denver

A single that had bummed on its initial release in May 1989 now re-entered the chart at #46 in June 1990, illustrating the huge interest in everything that was coming out of Madchester. Composed by a stellar and unusual cast – credits are rightly given to Lennon/McCartney, David Essex and Sly & The Family Stone as well as those who performed on the song.

Shall We Take A Trip – Northside

A third entry for Factory Records in the singles chart this week – possibly for the first and only time.  The debut single from Manchester band Northside hung about the lower end of the charts for a month or so, entering at #53 on 3June and rising to #50 the following week.  It’s a fairly impressive effort given that the single was banned by the BBC thanks to the drugs references.

I’ll mention in passing the appearance of an initial slow burner that eventually seemed to take over the nation.  Unknown American rapper MC Hammer sneaked into the charts at #66 on 3 June 1990.  Nobody was really paying too much attention – there was football to be watched.  Three weeks later, his infectiously catchy (i.e., annoying) U Can’t Touch This, propelled by a promo video dominated by a crazy dance and crazy trousers, went Top 20 where it stayed for a further 12 weeks.  There was barely a singles chart over the next year and a bit that didn’t have an MC Hammer song in the Top 75.

The chart of 10 June 1990 had plenty of new entries, but for the most part they should, mainly in the interests of good taste, also be skipped over:-

Step By Step – New Kids On The Block(#2)
Oops Up -Snap! (#13)
Nessun Dorma – Luciana Pavarotti (#22)
Whose Law (Is It Anyway) – Guru Josh (#32)
Thinking Of You – Maureen (#38)
Mona – Craig McLachlan and Check 1-2 (#44)
Move Away Jimmy Blue – Del Amitri (#54)
Love Is – Alannah Myles (#61)
Jack’s Heroes – The Pogues and The Dubliners (#64)
Ways Of Love – Claytown Troupe (#70)
Time – Kim Wilde (#73)
Chapel of Love – London Boys (#75)

Just typing out that list illustrates just how much money was spent by record labels on stuff that had no chance of ever recouping its cost. Utter madness.

There was one other new entry in the chart. Which sort of illustrated the point.

Won’t Stop Loving You – A Certain Ratio

ACR, had left Factory Records to sign with A&M in 1987. The major label obviously felt they had a success story on their hands but the Good Together album and the three singles lifted from it in 1989, had sold dismally.

They did, however, get their name into the singles chart in June 1990 with a new single, which benefitted from the fact that it had been remixed by a bloke whose band were at #1 in the charts. Yup, the friendship with Barney Sumner sort of paid off, and after entering at #69, the single climbed to the dizzy heights of #55. ACR were dropped soon afterwards by the label.

The chart of 17 June was similar to that of the previous week. The new entrants included Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Bruce Dickinson, and Magnum (an indication that some sort of hard rock festival was in the offing). It also saw Bob Geldof‘s appropriately titled Great Song of Indifference enter at #43 only to fall out of the charts altogether the following week.*

 

* CORRECTION :  I hadn’t spotted that Bob Geldof’s single in fact climbed the charts in the filling weeks and went on to be a Top 20 hit.  Happy to put the record straight…in my defence, I’ll just say that I can’t recall the song at all…

 

Two songs worth mentioning. The first of which saw a third chart single (#46) in 1990 for the biggest rap act on the planet, while the second saw a song enter at #67, a full 34 years after it had been a #1 hit:-

Brothers Gonna Work It Out -Public Enemy
Paint It Black – The Rolling Stones

The Stones single had been re-issued on the back of it being the title tune to the hit TV series Tour Of Duty.

The new chart of 24 June was just as depressing in terms of the majority of new singles. Indeed, the whole thing was pretty stagnant with only the aforementioned MC Hammer being a new song inside the top 20, with the others all hovering around the previous week’s positions.

These four, however, are rare rays of light, entering respectively at #40, #48 #49, and #75

She Comes In The Fall – Inspiral Carpets
Put The Message In The Box – World Party
Dangerous Sex – Tack Head
Anyway That You Want Me – Spiritualized

This was Tack Head‘s only ever brush with the singles chart.

The cover of a Troggs song was the debut single from Jason Pierce‘s new band following the break-up of Spaceman 3.  And one of SWC’s favourite songs of all time.

I bet these facts are making a few of you shake your heads and wondering where the time has gone.

JC
(aged exactly 57 years)

 

THAT TIME WHEN CATCHY INDIE-POP WENT ANNOYINGLY MAINSTREAM

This came up on random play the other day. It was probably my first listen to it in at least a decade. I got really sick of it back in back in 2001 when, after it had featured as a relatively unknown song in an advert promoting a mobile phone company, it was everywhere in the UK, reaching #5 in the singles chart and never off the radio or video channels, even though the promo had to be edited with pixelation to cover full-frontal male nudity and a topless female.

mp3 : The Dandy Warhols – Bohemian Like You

Putting aside that it became so annoying to hear it so often, there’s no denying it’s a decent bit of indie-pop.

Here’s the only CD single by The Dandy Warhols that I have in my collection. A chart hit from 1998 that I still enjoy listening to:-

mp3 : The Dandy Warhols – Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth

Not sure where the rest of you stand but this probably the only time I’ll feature them on the pages of the blog.

JC

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

A GUEST SERIES


1. Come Together – Primal Scream

Released as a single on Creation Records in August 1990 (Reached Number 26)

There were two plans for the number one and last segment of this series. The first plan was to write something about my daughter and post ‘Shake It Off’ by Taylor Swift. I was going to wax lyrical about how fantastic my daughter is and how it was because of her that I decided to scratch this particular itch that had developed inside me. Then she wrote that ICA from a few weeks ago and sort of showed everyone reading how fantastic she is.

Although I will tell you about the events of a cold December morning, which will further evidence it. On that morning, my daughter caught me crying. It was two in the morning and I couldn’t sleep. I’d had a bad day and sat up in the lounge and I was listening to something I downloaded (a podcast about the disappearance of Maddie McCann) and it made me cry. My daughter, bless her, stumbled into the lounge, needing the toilet and happened to see me.

Six hours or so later I walked my daughter to school. There is a bit on the walk where we always decided to go left past the farmhouse or right along the track. I always ask her which way she wants to go. On this morning she told me I could decide. We walked along the track and halfway along the track my daughter stops and asks me why I was crying in the night. She asks me (and remember she is seven) if I still loved mummy and if I still loved her. I stop in my tracks and kneel down, skilfully avoiding the horse poo.

I tell her that I was crying because I was listening to something sad on the computer and that, of course, I still love her and mummy. My daughter nods and tears appear in her eyes and she tells me to listen to something happy, which is devastatingly brilliant advice. We hug each other. There is not a soul around and the world just kinds of fast forwards itself around us. It’s one of those moments that should last forever and one of those moments that make you feel better instantly.

I’m going to stick a song in here, just because it needs one

Lazarus (12” Version) – The Boo Radleys

Ten minutes later we are at the school gates and I stand with my daughter and tell her to have a good day and that I will see her later. She stops at the door of the school and spins round and runs back to me. She digs her hand into her coat pocket and pulls out this little pink rubber unicorn thing that goes on the end of a pencil. She hands it to me.

“I always bring a friend to school in case I get lonely” she tells me, “But you can have this one, if you get lonely, give it a squeeze”, she says and with it she spins back around and runs in the school. My hand closes around the unicorn and I have to turn around quickly, otherwise the parents will see the tears in my eyes. That unicorn remains in my pocket to this day. I’ve just squeezed it a minute ago whilst writing the paragraph above this one and every time I squeeze it makes me happy or happier. Sometimes it’s the small things that make me realise/remember that I am one of the luckiest men there is. Anyway, let’s look at the second plan.

The second plan was to end this series by posting the song that was sitting on Top of the Charts on the day I was born. Sadly that for me is ‘Whispering Grass’ by Windsor Davies and Don Estelle, for those in the dark, these two were in the old BBC comedy ‘It Ain’t Half Hot Mum’, a tragically unfunny, possibly racist sitcom about some men in the army. The song is awful as well. So I abandoned that plan too. But if I had been born the year after that….then this would have been sat at the top of charts, and it is way better (so same time next year…?)

I’ve Got a Brand New Combine Harvester by The Wurzels

I was always going to say thank you to JC though, for allowing me the time and space to write this series though. This series was always supposed to be about influences, people, songs, events, places, things that have happened that influenced me over the last 45 years (although in reality 35 years). One of those things has been this very website, one of those people has been you Mr Clark, and if I was wearing a hat, I would be tipping it right now. The knowledge, the humour, the comradeship and the all-round warmth shown across this page is refreshing and a joy. The fact that you allow me to witter on, unquestioned is appreciated more than you will ever know, although I would imagine that one or two of the regulars would disagree with that.

Thanks for reading, as ever. Its been a pleasure. Stay tuned for my A to Z of ICAs….I’m joking…I think

SWC

JC adds:

Happy 45th birthday SWC.

Thanks for an incredible series that felt as if we were on board the most emotional of rollercoasters, with shrieks of laughter interspersed with ‘WTF!!!!????’ moments.   You cannot let this be your final contribution to the blog, unless, of course, this has helped mend a few scars that have prevented you from getting things going again under your own steam.

Have a great lockdown birthday with your loved ones.  Play some songs, have some dances, and eat loads of cake. I’ll certainly, at some point today, pour myself a glass of rum and toast your good health.  7pm UK time if anyone cares to join me while I’m giving this 7″ single from 2008 a spin.

mp3: The All New Adventures Of Us – 45 Forever

7pm update:  as promised.  Spiced Rum from Glasgow with ice.  And a 45 rotating at 45rpm.  Happy birthday SWC.