P is for Pooh Sticks

Young People (Taken from the ‘The Great White Wonder’)

I gave blood today. It was the first time I have given blood in about 25 years. In fact the last time I gave blood I was still dating OPG so it’s longer than 25 years ago, more like 27 years, 6 months and 22 days. On that occasion, OPG and her mum picked me up in their Austin Maestro from the small car park behind the church hall near Gillingham High Street, and OPG rewarded me with a Mars Bar for being such a brave boy. I was really pleased with myself not only because I’d done a good a thing, but I’d also managed to get a free cup of tea and a small packet of biscuits, and now I had a whole Mars Bar as well. Some days, you just felt like the King of the World.

I’m always reminded of the last great Tony Hancock in ‘The Blood Donor” when I give blood. I can’t help it. I love Tony Hancock and ‘The Blood Donor’ is one of my favourite pieces of television ever. Despite telling myself that I have absolutely no intention of watching ‘The Blood Donor’ before I go and donate, there I am at midday on the hottest day of the year in my lounge, chortling away to myself as Hancock delivers his immortal line to the harassed looking doctor.

“I mean, I came here in all good faith, to help my country. I don’t mind giving a reasonable amount, but a pint? Why, that’s very nearly an armful.”

I am tempted to quote Hancock to the nurse who deals with me today, but I decide not to, largely because the man in front of me does it first and the gag falls so flat on its arse that I tell myself that annoying the kind lady with the big needle is not a tremendous idea. She is also about 25 as well, and the reason why the joke is falling flat on its arse is because the nurse probably thinks that Tony Hancock is related to Matt Hancock, the totally fucking hopeless ex health secretary.

R is for Ride

Close My Eyes (Taken from ‘Ride EP’)

The nurse, who is called Vanessa, pricks my middle finger and then proceeds to squeeze some blood out of it, she is quite content with the quality of my blood and then tells me to go and sit on the reclining chairs. It is there in the reclining chairs that you give your armful of blood. It’s kind of relaxing, once you get past the needle in your arm bit that is. I lie there close my eyes and listen to the music that is playing in the room and once I realise what it is, I try and shut out the racket that is Heather Small singing ‘Proud’.

“You feeling nervous, love?” Vanessa says; it’s a bit weird being called ‘Love’ by a woman who is young enough to be my daughter, but I smile and say “Nope, I’m just trying to not listen to Heather Small’s voice”. Vanessa offers me a cushion to put behind my back, and I feel myself ageing a few more years.

After about ten minutes a machine beeps a noise similar to the noise you get when you finish a level of Super Mario Brothers, and I am told to sit up and then Vanessa asks me if I would like a drink. I ask for an Earl Grey, black and with a squeeze of lemon if they have it. She hands me a piece of card that tells me “NO HOT DRINKS FOR SIX HOURS”.

I’m also, for the next six hours, not allowed “Physical Exercise (including sex)” – it genuinely says that, “too much sun” (it’s the hottest day of the year) and “no alcohol”. I tell Vanessa that the last time I gave blood, I got a cup of tea. She looks at me strangely and asks me “When was that” as apparently, it’s a really bad idea to have hot drinks after giving blood.

I tell her it was in “1994”. She laughs and says “Christ love, I wasn’t even born then” and about 3000 of my hairs immediately turn grey, and I ask her for some water.

I am walked over to the relaxation area, where you must sit for fifteen minutes after donating. I am offered a box full of crisps and salty snacks to eat with my water (“helps your body retain water, love”) and I pick up two bags of salt and vinegar crisps and sit in one of the comfy chairs and pick up a copy of ‘Devon Life’ Magazine and read an article about the Westward Ho!

I open the crisps and munch away. I’m really hungry. I’d gone out without lunch, you see, choosing instead to watch Tony Hancock videos instead. About seven minutes after I finish the first bag of crisps, I realise that this was a mistake. My head starts to spin a bit, and then a lot, and the nurse to my right has started talking in a weird slow motion style. I pick up my glass of water, my hand is shaking, and suddenly I feel really hot, sweating buckets hot, like the moment about two minutes before you puke up last night’s alcohol.

A kind nurse called Toby wanders over and asks me if I am ok. I feel a bit faint, I tell him. Within minutes, I am lying on the floor, with a cool pillow behind my head and Vanessa is back and shoving my feet on a small box so they are higher than my head.

Vanessa looks at me and smiles, “Bless” she says.

The Pooh Sticks were outstanding, a jangly indie pop band from Wales and ‘The Great White Wonder’ was their second album and featured as a guest vocalist Amelia Fletcher from Talulah Gosh. I saw them live just once at the 1992 Reading Festival (I think) that ended with this.

I’m In You – a fifteen minute wig out of sheer brilliance.

I’m pretty sure I used to own ‘The Great White Wonder’ on tape.

The Ride EP was as we all know the first release from Ride. It remains to this day essential listening, and here for the unacquainted are the other three tracks from the EP. It is unlikely that you will hear many songs that are better today.

Chelsea Girl
Drive Blind
All I Can See




Have a really good look at the sleeve for today’s featured song from CD86. Have any of you out there actually ever seen it in real life? I only ask as it is incredibly rare….it is also a ridiculously expensive piece of vinyl. The available copies on Discogs retail for £150 or thereabouts.

mp3 : The Pooh Sticks – On Tape

I can’t even offer a b-side as it was a one-sided single, released in 1988 on Fierce Recordings.

As with Jasmine Minks (featured back in Part 2 of the series), here we have a song that is synonymous with the whole C86 scene which in fact is a bit of a cheat. There is no doubt however, that The Pooh Sticks would not have come into being without the aid of C86.

On Tape is a brilliant record on so many different levels. It sounds as shambolic and cheaply recorded as most of the C86 tracks were, it pays homage to the humble cassette which, after all, was the medium under which C86 thrived and above all else the lyrics gently mock the trainspotter obsessiveness of so many music fans (myself included!!) with lyrics such as “I’ve got Falling and Laughing – the original Postcard version” and “I sent for the Soup Dragons single, mail-order only; £1.30 to Martin Whitehead, but it never came!”

Oh and in Trudi Tangerine (tambourine/piano) they surely have the best-named indie pop star of all time.

The next five singles after On Tape were also one-sided 45s and these were then gathered together in a vinyl only box set before being made available on a CD compilation entitled Alan McGhee. A live LP followed (on pink vinyl) before another run of 7″ singles on coloured vinyl or as flexidiscs. This was a band determined to do entirely the unexpected….

1990 saw another compilation album and a slew of one-off singles and then, just as the world embraced the advent of grunge and loud guitars, The Pooh Sticks moved to a new label – Cheree Records – and released an album which to all intent and purposes was a power-pop tribute to 70s style soft-rock and AOR.

Incredibly, despite no great sales, this effort got the band into major territory with RCA Records via the Zoo Entertainment imprint and this led to the 1993 release of the tongue-in-cheek named Million Seller. If you any evidence of the lack of demand for the music from this era, you can pick up second-hand copies of the CD for about £3.

By 1995, after a third studio LP, The Pooh Sticks broke up….

In the absence of a b-side, I will offer up the only other track of theirs I have in the collection – it’s another of the early one-sided 45s courtesy of its inclusion on a Rough Trade compilation from back in 2004.  All 95 seconds of it:-


mp3 : Pooh Sticks – I Know Someone Who Knows Someone Who Knows Alan McGee Quite Well