Ian Dury and the Blogheads

Disclaimer: this weeks entry has bugger all to do with Ian Dury and/or his Blockheads, but it is about live music, and I’ve been trying to use up this title for over a year (similarly, keep an eye out for ‘Blog Geldof’ and ‘Blog Marley’ making an appearance at some point), so let’s just accept it and move on, shall we?

As I briefly mentioned on Facebook earlier this week, last Saturday brought a milestone moment in my father-son relationship with Ollie: his first ever gig.

I have been desperate to take him to some ‘proper’ live music for a while (no disrespect to the local acts he has seen around Sandbach on various ‘fun days’, but it’s not the same), so when my favourite band, Terrorvision, announced they would be performing at the ‘Beautiful Day Out’ festival in Halifax, and the age restriction was 6+ (compared to most gigs in Manchester being 14+), it was a no-brainer.

Unless you grew up listening to rock and indie music in the 1990’s, as I did, you may not be too familiar with Terrorvision, and even then you may only recall their biggest hit, ‘Tequila’, but believe me when I say their live performances are the most fun you can have with your clothes on.

To give you an idea of how energetic and daft they are – particularly singer Tony Wright – ‘Tequila’ was written after he drank a lot of it while in America, then scaled the outside of a nearby Hard Rock Café, to try and make it sound ‘more Northern’ by removing the H from the sign. Only, he fell off and broke both his ankles.

Anyway, once I had purchased our tickets a few months ago (which I gave to Ollie for his birthday), I set about finding a hotel for us, as I didn’t fancy driving back late at night – and anticipated having a few beers. But, as usual, the local hoteliers had identified an opportunity to make some money, and the prices had been hiked-up faster than a tart’s dress. Even the Travelodge was suddenly over £100 a night for that weekend. Robbing bastards.

In the end, having trawled a well-known comparison site, I discovered a friendly-looking Guesthouse only a couple of miles from Halifax, and because it was cheaper than everywhere else, I didn’t mind paying for taxis to and from the venue. However, just before booking, I spotted a warning that the property was ‘unsuitable for children’, so I e-mailed the owner for more information. The following is a summary of our e-mail exchange:

“I was about to book a room for my son and I in June, but I’ve noticed your website says it’s not suitable for children?”

“How old is your son?”

“By then he’ll be nine. Why?”

“Ok, I’ll let you book [gee, thanks], but you’ll have to be responsible for your son [shame, I was hoping to dump him and piss off], and I’ll need I.D. for both of you, as well as proof you’re his father.”

My initial reaction was ‘fuck that, weirdo’, but then I didn’t want him thinking I had only lost interest because my paternity had been challenged, so I said I’d get back to him – then never did. I certainly didn’t want to stay in a place where grooming was clearly an issue.

Fortunately, I then found a different hotel nearer to the venue, and when I had satisfied myself that grooming, beastiality (well, this was Yorkshire), and sacrificial ceremonies would be frowned upon, I confirmed the booking.

The ‘Beautiful Day Out’ was part of a three-day music festival, taking place at the Piece Hall in Halifax (an 18th century cloth hall that now houses exhibits, shops and restaurants), and while another predominantly-’90s band, The Levellers, were headlining, Ollie and I were there for Terrorvision.

Since Saturday was expected to be the hottest day of the year so far, but because I wanted to travel light, our rucksack contained only sun cream and five water bottles (that’s responsible parenting right there, folks). Only, when we arrived and approached the gate, a security guard (who looked remarkably like Susan Boyle, and also turned out to be Scottish) asked to search my bag.

The conversation which followed – with apologies to my Scottish readers – went thus:

“Kin ah check yer bah?”

“Sure.”

[Uncomfortable pause while no one moves or says anything]

“Oh, sorry, did you want me to open it?”

“Aye. Ahm nae gonna, am ah?”

“Well, there’s only sun cream and water in there.”

“Ye cannae bring water in.”

“Why not? It’s nearly thirty degrees!”

“Nae liquid allowed. It’s the rools.”

“Actually, SuBo, it’s not the rules, because I read them two days ago, and they only say no alcohol or glass.”

“We changed them.”

“Since Thursday?”

“Aye.”

“That’s fucking ridiculous. I have my son with me and it’s the hottest day of the year.”

“Thir’s water inside.”

In the end, she wasn’t budging (literally, she blocked half the entrance), and since her customer service training had clearly taken place at the US Customs School of Banter, Ollie and I quickly drank a bottle each, managed to give one away, and then had to bin the other two (muttering something about ‘fucking up the planet’ in the process).

Once inside, we visited all the stalls to make dinner plans, and in doing so Ollie spotted the merchandise stand, where he begged me to buy him a Terrorvision t-shirt to commemorate the occasion. Unfortunately, the ‘ladies fit’ t-shirt (which might not have looked too big on him) was bright yellow and he didn’t like it, so he chose the unisex black t-shirt instead; which, even in the smallest size they did, looked more like a dress:

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Soon after, the music started, and I won’t bore you with the first two acts, but the third, Therapy?, were extremely sweary – which perhaps wasn’t a great idea when the crowd featured kids as young as six. I understand they are a rock band, and shouldn’t have to tone down their performance, but when the lead singer is screaming ‘fuck’ more than he wasn’t screaming ‘fuck’, even I found it a bit much.

After an hour of swearing (which inexplicably included a chant of ‘Fuck Boris Johnson’ between songs – not that anyone would want to), it was time for Terrovision’s crew to begin preparing the stage for our musical highlight.

By this point, we had already eaten dinner (partly to distract Ollie from the bad language – although I nearly swore myself when I was charged £17 for two burgers and a portion of chips), and he had also taken his inaugural festival shit (#makingmemories), but it seemed the rest of the crowd were either hungry or needed the toilet themselves, because they all suddenly vacated the area in front of the stage.

Spotting an opening, Ollie asked if we could stand near the front, and, before I had time to answer, he was weaving his way through the crowd. Had I done this alone, between people who had obviously arrived early to get a good spot, I might have faced resistance/abuse, but because it was a child nudging his way past them they allowed it, and I managed to follow while offering an apologetic ‘kids, eh?’ shrug of the shoulders.

Having identified a gap right by the barriers, Ollie squeezed in, and I stood directly behind him in case of any ‘mosh pits’ or crowd surfers (ask your parents, kids).  At this point, a bloke to my right asked if Ollie was excited, so I told him it was his first gig, and he praised Ollie for choosing such a great band. I thought about clarifying it was my idea, but didn’t want to ruin Ollie’s sudden kudos among the crowd, as more and more people were becoming aware of the young lad at the front.

Indeed, the people around us were so enamoured, as Terrorvision’s stage time got nearer and the crowd got busier, they formed a protective barrier around the two of us to keep him safe.

Soon after, it was time for the main event (as far as we were concerned), and Terrorvision did not disappoint, cramming sixteen songs into their one-hour slot, bouncing around the stage, and whipping their fans into a frenzy. Even the fact that SuBo had re-appeared directly in front of us didn’t dampen our spirits – although I did ‘enjoy’ the irony of her having confiscated our plastic bottles of water, only for a moron behind me to be swinging a glass bottle of wine around his head.

Tony Wright was on particularly good form, joking that the Piece Hall hadn’t seen a crowd that big ‘since they stopped floggin’ folk here’, and throughout the entire set Ollie bounced around and sang his heart out, much to the delight of our crowd-buddies. Afterwards, as the band departed and the cheering died down, he beamed “That. Was. Epic.” and I couldn’t have agreed more.

Desperately in need of a drink, we headed to the bar (where, rather conveniently, the ‘free tap water’ had broken, so I had to pay £2 for a bottle which was more-or-less identical to the six-pack I had paid less for earlier in the day), and we sat down to rest our weary legs.

At this point, Ollie sniffed, and asked me what the odd smell was. I instinctively answered it was weed, but then immediately anticipated a barrage of questions I didn’t have the energy for, so quickly explained that someone nearby “must have wee’d” (well, in fairness, this was a Levellers gig).

It was only then that I noticed the majority of those around us were wearing Levellers t-shirts, which went someway to explaining the weed smell (such is the Brighton-rockers fanbase), not to mention the alarming amount of tie-dye clothing, and the fact one of the burger vans was selling ‘pulled beetroot baps’. For £7. Fucking hippies.

When The Levellers took to the stage just after 9pm, I would love to tell you I was converted by their energy and music, but the truth is we got three songs in before Ollie loudly announced ‘they’re rubbish, can we go?’, and I decided – bearing in mind we were now being glared at by their fans – that, yes Ollie, it was probably best we made a swift exit.

It didn’t bother me that I was missing the headline act, because it was never about The Levellers, and the fact Ollie had not only seen my favourite band for his first ever gig, but had absolutely loved it, made every penny worthwhile.

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Well, perhaps not the £17 for those burgers and chips.

Thanks for reading x

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Blog On The Dance Floor

I do not consider myself to be a huge fan of Genesis (the band, rather than the opening book of the Old Testament – although I am not too keen on that either, as I find it somewhat slow and uneventful, you know, apart from the whole ‘creation of the world’ stuff), but I do own a couple of their albums.

And, whilst there aren’t many of Phil Collins’ lyrics that really speak to me (with the obvious exception of ‘Su-Su-Sussudio’ – which I think we can all relate to), he really nailed two of my biggest failings with the line ‘I can’t dance, I can’t sing’.

I have always found this line to be rather odd, bearing in mind he sings it relatively competently, so even if he is indeed a terrible dancer (which I can well imagine he is, just by looking at him), the lyrics are only 50% accurate.  He’d have been far better off writing a song called ‘I can’t dance, and I’m a mediocre drummer’, but I guess that wouldn’t have been as punchy. Shame, because he could have done a duet with Ringo Starr.

Anyway, unlike Phil Collins, I am sadly dreadful at both singing and dancing. Not only have I been lumbered with the kind of singing voice usually reserved for the toothless misfits on X-Factor (you know, the ones who claim to be 35 with seven grandchildren), but I would imagine the only person worse at dancing than I am, is, well, Phil Collins probably.

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For starters, I have not been blessed with the sort of body much suited to throwing some shapes around a dance floor. In fact, my lanky physique is only really useful in two situations: finding someone in a crowd (or them finding me), and reaching the top shelves in shops – usually to help a little old lady.

It’s not that I necessarily mind helping little old ladies in shops, but it infuriates me that they never request my assistance directly, and will always instead ask my wife if they can ‘borrow’ me for a minute, like I’m a piece of equipment. It’s degrading, and I’m sure half the time they only ask for help so that they can stare at my perfectly-formed arse as I stretch up. Well, enough is enough, and from now on they can reach for their dirty magazines themselves.

Anyway, I digress.

Aside from my physique, I also have a complete lack of co-ordination. On an average day, I will injure myself perhaps three or four times just by existing, so I decided many years ago that it would be best for everyone if I avoided dancing, as it only places myself and those around me in mortal danger. For much the same reason, I have also banned myself from yoga, martial arts, and rhythmic gymnastics.

And, whilst I consider my taste in music to be quite varied, none of the artists or bands I like tend to be very good to dance to, so there aren’t many songs which would entice me onto a dance floor anyway.

For example, I detest all dance music (and its many variants) with a passion, and the sort of cheesy pop generally reserved for weddings and Christmas parties – when the requirement to dance is at its most demanding – makes me want to rip my own ears off. If there is indeed a Hell, I suspect the soundtrack will feature Candi Staton and Dexys Midnight Runners on an eternal loop.

Don’t get me wrong, I can see the appeal of dancing, but what I don’t understand is why women, in particular, find it so important in a potential mate (‘Oh, I know he has a criminal record and no job, but just look at him move. I can change him, Sandra, I know I can’). We are not, after all, peacocks, and I would have thought it sensible to consider a whole host of other qualities in a potential partner, before getting anywhere near ‘does he enjoy the Grease Megamix at a wedding?’

If I were a woman (and I thank the Lord I’m not, as I wouldn’t get anything done if I had boobs to distract me all day), I would consider personality, looks, sense of humour and mental stability as key factors when choosing a partner, not ‘performance on a dance floor’. Yet, there are women out there who will be put off approaching a man in a club – regardless of how ‘right’ he may ultimately turn out to be – purely because he dances like he has a scorpion gradually working its way up the inside of his trousers.

This is not intended to be a sweeping generalisation, as I appreciate there are women out there who can look past a man’s horrendous dance floor routine (otherwise I wouldn’t be married with children) but these shallow females do exist, I promise you. I once knew a girl who dismissed a potential boyfriend, purely because of the shoes he was wearing. I shit you not.

We men are far easier to please when it comes to the mating process, and the ability to dance rarely features in our selection criteria. For example, mine (and I suspect I speak for many men here), goes a little something like this:

Do I find her attractive (e.g. does she appear to have a pulse)?

If yes…

Has she run away from me screaming?

If no…..

Does she support either Manchester team?

If no…..

Buy a ring quick, you found one!

Simplistic, maybe, but its worked for me so far.

As you might imagine, I try to avoid dancing at all costs, but from time to time situations arise where I know I am going to be forced to dance, and when that happens I need to prepare myself – both mentally and physically – by getting drunk. This, in itself, presents further problems, as there is often a very fine line between ‘drunk enough to dance’ and ‘so drunk, he actually thinks he can dance’.

As a general rule of thumb, if you ever see me on a dance floor, and I seem to be enjoying myself (rather than appearing to be there under extreme duress), I have gone way past my self-imposed alcohol limit, and I’m going to feel dreadful the next day. I would urge you to approach me – carefully, I’m dancing remember – and have a quiet word. Something along the lines of ‘you’ve had far too much to drink, and you need to go home, now‘.

Don’t listen to my protests either, as I will thank you for your kindness in the long run, even if I’m telling you to leave me the fuck alone at the time. Persevere, and don’t take no for an answer. If all else fails, coax me away from the dance floor with a Jagerbomb (just don’t let me drink it).

By the same token, if I look miserable on a dance floor, and my movements are restricted to slight steps either way (with minimal arm gestures), then I am not anywhere near intoxicated enough to be up there, I am having a horrible time, and I desperately need a rescue. You must still approach me, but with an excuse to get me off the dance floor – and to the bar – pronto.

As a handy guide:

Not quite drunk enough                           Too drunk

need to be drunk to dance, because it helps to reduce my fears and inhibitions, and I become less aware of my overly-critical inner-monologue (which judges my every move on a dance floor). For me, dancing is like going to the dentist to have major work done – the more I am anaesthetised and numb, the easier and less painful I find the whole experience.

For example, consider the scenario where I am relatively sober, and therefore extremely concerned that everyone on the dance floor is watching me and cringing/laughing. Inside my head, the narrative goes a little like this:

Right. In a minute, we’re going to mix-up the leg movements a bit, ok? You’ve been doing that ridiculous side-step thing for two and a half songs now, and everyone thinks you might be stuck, or having some kind of breakdown. You’ve got to try something different.

Ok, here we go, the key change is coming up…. Ready?… Go!

What the FUCK was that? What did you do that for? Jesus wept, they’re really looking at you now. Ok, damage limitation. Get to the end of the song, then tell everyone you don’t like the next one, and suggest going for a sit down and a drink. You’re a disgrace to mankind, you really are. Get pissed, quickly, for both our sakes.

So I do. I know I shouldn’t, especially as my ability to deal with hangovers is rapidly diminishing as I get older, but it’s the only way I’ll get back up there once things have gone south.

However, if I then drink ever-so-slightly too much, I run the risk of getting overly confident (as well as emotional and ‘handsy’). If the messages from my brain to the rest of my body were confused when I was sober, imagine what it’s like when I’m pissed:

You’re awesome! See her over there? She wants you. And her friend. They’ve been watching you for a while, and they think you’re a dancing God. Bet one of them comes over in a minute and offers to buy you a drink. Let’s step it up a notch.

Steady now. Remember to keep the arms below shoulder height, this isn’t ‘Flashdance’. That’s it. Ooh, nice leg move. That’s new. Where did you learn that? It looked like you had a scorpion going up your trouser leg! Neat. You’re really getting into the groove now my friend.

She’s coming over! Told you she would.

What was that she said? She thinks you should go home? Tell her not yet, you’re the king of the dance floor! 

Ooh, Jagerbomb. Go on then.

Welcome to my brain, folks. It’s a terrifying place.

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Who Let The Blogs Out?

Seeing as I mentioned great trilogies in my last blog entry, it is about time I wrapped up my favourite albums from the ‘80s, ‘90s and ‘00s. So, having already dealt with the first two decades, it’s the ‘00s turn.

Before we begin with the countdown, however, I would firstly like to issue a full and unreserved apology to the 1990s. If you recall entry #41 (Ooh Ahh… Just A Little Blog), I may have given the impression that the top ten selling singles from that decade were, how can I put this… shit? Whilst I still stand by that statement to an extent, it wasn’t until I considered the top ten selling singles from the 00s, that I realised how bad things really can get:

  1. Evergreen / Anything Is Possible – Will Young
  2. Unchained Melody – Gareth Gates
  3. (Is This The Way To) Amarillo – Tony Christie
  4. It Wasn’t Me – Shaggy (featuring Rikrok)*
  5. Hallelujah – Alexandra Burke
  6. Do They Know It’s Christmas? – Band Aid 20
  7. Can’t Get You Out Of My Head – Kylie Minogue
  8. That’s My Goal – Shane Ward
  9. Pure And Simple – Hear’Say
  10. Can We Fix It? – Bob The Builder

*And by ‘featuring’, they do of course mean ‘does all the singing and the hard work, while the guy you have actually heard of only has to grunt “It wasn’t me” every once in a while to get all the money’.

Anyway, when I looked at the equivalent list from the 1990s, I realised that if you removed the novelty records, any songs from film and television, and the hastily re-released ballad in honour of Princess Di, you were left with a disturbing revelation: the music buying public of the ‘90s seemed to have a fondness for unhinged female soloists – namely Cher, Britney, and Whitney (which frankly sounds like the cast of TOWIE, or the daughters of a Premier League footballer).

Sadly, it seems that the music buying public of the ‘00s didn’t have any taste either. The focus may not have been on female solo artists (apart from the truly horrible Alexandra Burke, and that pert-bottomed Aussie elfin, Kylie) but the dominance of shows like Pop Stars and The X-Factor is frightening. In fact, if you take away any Nigel Lythgoe and Simon Cowell manufactured pop-turds, all you’re left with is novelty records again, and I’m not sure I want to live in a world where Neil Morrissey is the tenth best-selling musical artist of the decade.

Oh, and as a side point, I’ve just noticed that the second most popular song from both decades was Unchained Melody – initially by Robson & Jerome in 1995, and more recently by Gareth Gates in 2002. It’s hard to decide which cover version was the worst.

Fortunately, there was still a load of great music released between 2000 and 2010 (it just didn’t sell as well), and so here are my personal favourite albums in descending order:

10. Elbow – Cast of Thousands (2003)

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I mentioned in an earlier blog entry that I am not a huge Elbow fan, and this is largely because I seem to like each new album less than the one before – so much so, I didn’t even bother buying the latest one. However, if dreary, slightly depressing songs are your bag (Radiohead fans take note), then Cast of Thousands is brilliant. Not only are the tunes excellent, but Guy Garvey has a real knack of writing clever and amusing lyrics, often focussing on the North West of England (and, on one occasion, referring to my beloved Stockport County – which is sufficient grounds for a top ten placing on its own).

Best Song: Not A Job

9. The Killers – Hot Fuss (2004)

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I have mixed feelings here. If Elbow haven’t quite lived up to Cast of Thousands with their subsequent albums, then The Killers are like a completely different band since their debut. Hot Fuss exploded onto the scene – and the charts – just over ten years ago, but nearly everything The Killers have given us since then has been utterly terrible. A couple of songs from the follow-up album (Sam’s Town) were average, but the third release, Sawdust, was largely unlistenable. In fact, I have only played it once. Ok, it was a B-sides compilation, but The Killers clearly aren’t one of those bands where the B-Sides go criminally unnoticed – in fact, they should have stayed unnoticed.  Still, Hot Fuss is great, it’s just a shame they didn’t stop there.

Best Song: Smile Like You Mean It

8. Longview – Mercury (2003)

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Longview, in contrast to The Killers, did stop after one album, and that’s a shame. In fact, they went one better and completely vanished off the face of the earth. Their Wikipedia page has gone awfully quiet of late, and despite the relative success of this fantastic debut, there has been no sign of any follow-up material, so I can only assume they have finished. Perhaps they decided to become the first band in history to play The Bermuda Triangle? Or North Korea? Whatever has happened to them, I wish them well, and thank them profusely for giving the world Mercury.

Best Song: Further

7. Idlewild – The Remote Part (2002)

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Idlewild have released six full-length albums to date (although I fear they might also now be done), and this is my favourite. Aside from being a very good album, I am particularly fond of Idlewild because they seem to have aged in tandem with me. By that, I mean that each new release has mellowed to reflect my own personal tastes as I got older, so that it suited that particular period of my life. I remember buying The Remote Part around the time my wife was living in Stockport, and playing it repeatedly on the little CD player she had in her flat. A great album from start to finish.

Best Song: Tell Me Ten Words

6. Jimmy Eat World – Bleed American (2001)

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Bleed American was originally released in July 2001, but following the attacks on the Twin Towers later that year, the band were concerned that the title might cause offence, so the album became eponymous, and the title track was changed to Salt Sweat Sugar. It is only in the last few years that references to the album’s original title have started to re-emerge.

All of that aside, this is the first Jimmy Eat World album I ever bought, and although it is no longer my favourite (see later), it’s still fantastic, and it brings back strong memories of listening to it as we drove from Poynton to Middlewich to look at what became our first house together. Little did I know at the time, I would be doing that very same journey past Jodrell Bank as my daily commute for several years.

Best Song: Hear You Me (if you do nothing else today, listen to this song – and especially focus on the lyrics. If you don’t get emotional, you’re dead inside)

5. Ben Folds – Rockin’ The Suburbs (2001)

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I much prefer Ben Folds’ solo material to any of the albums he released as part of Ben Folds Five (although they were by no means bad), and this first offering is still his finest. Having just checked the details on Wikipedia, it turns out this album was released on the same day as the September 11th attacks, not that the title was likely to cause offence in the way Jimmy Eat World felt theirs might.  The whole album gives off a sense of being recorded by Folds in his bedroom (such is the use of drum machines and the like), but that just adds to the charm. There are very few singer-songwriters out there who are as good.

Best Song: Zak and Sara

4. Placebo – Meds (2006)

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I own all of Placebo’s seven studio albums, and I like each of them in their own way, but Meds is the only one where I wouldn’t skip any tracks on the way through. As with many of their releases, the opening song is superb (in fact, it just edges it as the best on the album), and there is a great mix of fast rock songs and slower ballads, which is what Placebo do best. Despite loving this band, it was only in the last few months that I saw them live for the first time, and the title track was certainly a highlight.

Best Song: Meds

3. Roddy Woomble – My Secret Is My Silence (2006)

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Despite the comically-named Roddy Woomble being the lead singer of Idlewild, this debut solo album is completely different to anything he released with the band. In fact, it was only because I am such a huge fan of Idlewild, that I bought this album of chilled out Celtic folk music without hearing any of it in advance. At the time, it was not a genre I would especially go for, so I was taking a leap of faith, but My Secret Is My Silence is perhaps the album I have fallen in love with the fastest over the years. By the end of the first listen, I had to go back and play it again. And again. Even if, like me, folk music isn’t really your thing, I would still highly recommend giving this album a listen.

Best Song: If I Could Name any Name

2.  Eve 6 – Horrorscope (2000)

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Eve 6 produced three albums between 1998 and 2003, this one being the second and, in my opinion, the best. They then split up, but re-formed a few years ago and released the excellent Speak In Code (2012), which would have also made this top 10, were it not for the fact it came out two years too late to qualify.

Horrorscope is an album that, even though I know every lyric off by heart, I can blast it out as if it’s the first time I have listened to it, and still get the same level of enjoyment.

Best Song: On The Roof Again

1. Jimmy Eat World – Futures (2004)

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Where do I start? This album is completely brilliant throughout, it contains my favourite song of all time (23), and is not only my number one album of the 00s, but it is my favourite album full stop. In fact, thinking about it, my top three from this decade are my top three ever, which is odd as I generally would have thought I preferred the ‘80s and ‘90s. Obviously not.

Anyway, the bottom line is, if our house were on fire, I’d save this CD right after I’d saved my family and the dog (Note: This is an exaggeration. You should never go back into a burning house for a CD you can easily replace. Don’t be a hero).

I can’t say enough good things about Futures to do it justice; so, since it should be clear by now that I am a sucker for good lyrics, I’ll simply leave you with this:

So go on love

Leave while there’s still hope for escape

Got to take what you can these days

There’s so much ahead

So much regret

I know what you want to say

I know it but can’t help feeling differently

I loved you, and I should have said it

But tell me just what has it ever meant?

Best Song (ever): 23.

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Ooh, Aah…. Just A Little Blog

Following on from entry #38, Don’t Stop Bloggin’ (not one of my better titles, admittedly), I have now given careful consideration to my favourite albums from the 1990s.

The initial idea was to create three ‘top 10’ lists, one for each decade that I have lived through so far, but I hadn’t appreciated how hard this would be for the ‘90s. I was ten at the start of the decade (so, for any non-mathematicians, that means I was twenty when it ended) and, as a result, it was the decade when most of my musical development took place.

It was clear from my childhood that I was going to be influenced by, and steered towards, rock music more than anything else, but the 1990s brought us the explosion of other guitar-based genres such as ‘Indie’ and grunge. Basically, the ‘90s were filled to bursting with (mostly) my kind of music, not that you would know it by looking at the top 10 best-selling singles of the decade:

  1. Candle In The Wind / The Way You Look Tonight – Elton John
  2. Unchained Melody – Robson & Jerome
  3. Love Is All Around – Wet Wet Wet
  4. Barbie Girl – Aqua
  5. Believe – Cher
  6. Perfect Day – Various Artists
  7. (Everything I Do) I Do It For You – Bryan Adams
  8. …Baby One More Time – Britney Spears
  9. I’ll Be Missing You – Puff Daddy
  10. I Will Always Love You – Whitney Houston

Jesus wept. And believe me, the next ten best-selling tracks don’t get any better (Celine Dion features twice).

What’s worse, if you ignore any of those songs which were only popular because of their association with television and film (2, 3, 7 and 10); novelty songs (4 and 6); and the fact someone important died (1); then it means the music-buying public of the 1990s really, really, liked mentally-unstable female solo artists (5, 8 and… erm… 10 again). Oh, and Puff Daddy. Remember back when he was still Puff Daddy, and we had Opal Fruits, Marathon bars and Jif? It was a simpler time.

But if we look past what sold well during the ‘90s (because the general public are, by and large, morons), there was some great music. So much so, when I tried to narrow down all my ‘90s albums into a top 10, I simply couldn’t do it. I spent a few hours going back through my collection, but ended up with an initial short-list of twenty-five albums, and it was hard enough getting this down to twenty, so I had no chance of halving what was left.

Anyway, because this is my blog and I make up the rules, I have decided to extend the 1990s countdown to a top twenty instead…

20. Nirvana – Nevermind (1991)

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Arguably the most iconic album cover of the decade, and certainly regarded as Nirvana’s best release, Nevermind set the trend for many other grunge bands who followed in their footsteps.

Best Song: Come As You Are

19. The Wannadies – Bagsy Me (1996)

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I love the simplicity, catchy riffs and daft lyrics of this album: “If my head should burst, she’d be the first to mend it. If I was a girl, she’d be the first to bend me.”

Best Song: Shorty

18. Midget – Jukebox (1998)

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Very few will have heard of this band, and I only found out about them by chance, when a friend played me the opening track Invisible Balloon on a free CD he got with NME.  I then went searching for them online in the University computer lab, naively expecting their website to be simply http://www.midget.com – which transpired to be a dwarf-based ‘specialist’ site. Embarrassing.

Best Song: On The Run

17. Sleeper – The It Girl (1996)

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In my opinion, the second best girl-fronted-band of the decade, behind Garbage. This is a great album, only let down by the fact it doesn’t feature my favourite Sleeper song, Inbetweener (which was on their debut release).

Best Song: Statuesque

16. Placebo – Placebo (1996)

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Not my favourite Placebo album, but the best of those released in the 1990s. This debut was so different to anything else around at the time (thanks largely to the girly-voiced androgynous sprite that is lead singer Brian Molko), that it instantly had me hooked, and I have been a big fan ever since.

Best Song: I Know

15. R.E.M. – Out Of Time (1991)

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I think most people would agree R.E.M. were at their best during the 1990s, and certainly the four albums released between 1991 and 1996 (Out Of Time, Automatic For The People, Monster and New Adventures In Hi-Fi) are my favourites from their extensive back-catalogue, but this just edges it above the others for me.

Best Song: Near Wild Heaven

14. Fountains of Wayne – Utopia Parkway (1999)

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I mentioned in entry #28 that my wife and I don’t have ‘a song’, but if we were asked to name an album which signifies the early stages of our relationship – around 1999 BC (Before Children) – this would be it. It just so happens to be very, very good as well.

Best Song: Red Dragon Tattoo

13. Garbage – Garbage (1995)

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Although Garbage’s second album, Version 2.0, got more media attention, it is for that very reason that I prefer their debut eponymous release (I call this the ‘Stereophonics effect’ – see below). Everything about this band really shouldn’t work (and, indeed, with later albums it didn’t), but I remember playing this CD loads during my GCSEs, because it was refreshing to have a girl-fronted rock band that wasn’t shit.

Best Song: Vow

12. Stereophonics – Word Gets Around (1997)

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Ah, the ‘Stereophonics effect’ – where an album is played so much that you actually start to resent it. So named because of the band’s second release, Performance and Cocktails, which I heard so much (largely because most of the tracks were released as singles), that I started to go off it. Word Gets Around probably isn’t as good an album, but until such time has passed that I can listen to Performance and Cocktails again (I’m anticipating ten to fifteen years), I’m going to prefer it.

Best Song: Local Boy In The Photograph

11. The Supernaturals – It Doesn’t Matter Anymore (1997)

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Most people will recognise The Supernaturals’ biggest hit, Smile, because it has featured on a number of adverts over the years, but the whole album is excellent and, again, was played heavily during my University days.

Best Song: Dung Beetle

10. Dave Matthews Band – Crash (1996)

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This is the album that started my love affair with a band virtually unheard of in the UK, but seemingly huge everywhere else – especially in their native America where, in 2003, they played a free gig to over 100,000 people in Central Park. Inevitably, it was an American who introduced me to the band during my first year at university, and seeing them live at the Wolverhampton Civic Hall a few years ago was one of the best gigs I have ever been to.

Best Song – #41

9. The Frames – Dance The Devil (1999)

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Speaking of lesser-known bands that have been introduced to me by fellow students, The Frames, who are from Dublin, were recommended to me by an Irish girl I knew at Law School. Their lead singer, Glen Hansard, has now become slightly better known, having starred in the low-budget independent Irish film, Once, for which he also co-wrote the soundtrack – and won an Oscar and a Grammy for his troubles.

Best Song: Perfect Opening Line

8. Symposium – One Day At A Time (1997)

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This is actually an 8-track mini-album, and due to the punk-pop nature of the songs, it is less than half an hour in length. However, each and every song is fantastic, and it is far superior to the full album they released a year later. Like this mini-album, the band was sadly over all-too-soon, as they had split up by the end of 2000.

Best Song: Fear of Flying

7. Lit – A Place In The Sun (1999)

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I was fortunate enough to meet this band at the Leeds Festival in 1999, shortly after A Place In The Sun had been released, and the single My Own Worst Enemy had gone global (spending eleven weeks atop the US charts, and featuring quite highly over here too from recollection).

Best Song: My Own Worst Enemy

6. Counting Crows – August And Everything After (1993)

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Like many bands, Counting Crows haven’t ever topped their debut release in my opinion, but they have come mighty close. This is another album that I can happily listen to without skipping any tracks: just brilliant.

Best Song: Sullivan Street

5. Gun – Gallas (1992)

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As with Icehouse’s Man of Colours (see the ‘80s countdown in entry #38), this album also formed an important part of my childhood, albeit later on. The best thing to come out of Scotland since shortbread.

Best Song: Steal Your Fire

4. Silversun – Silversun (1997)

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If we pretend the Beach Boys don’t exist for a second, then there is no finer album to blast out of your car on a hot summer’s day than this. The lyrics may just be random words and phrases strung together without any real thought (“You’re in, so late, and I am so happy. Just looking, so sorry, for being so sad. That worm pie, you made me, you made me eat for the butcher. To paint a little, a little pig”) but it doesn’t matter, as it is pop-rock genius from start to finish. You cannot help but smile listening to this album.

Best Song: Lava

3. Feeder – Yesterday Went Too Soon (1999)

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Feeder’s first full-length album, Polythene, initially passed me by (although I have since gone back, bought a copy, and fallen in love with it), so the first I was aware of this band was when Insomnia, from this follow-up album, was played on the radio. It was one of those songs you instantly connect with and find yourself singing along to by the second chorus, and since it was released well before the album came out, I don’t think I have ever anticipated (and been ultimately delighted by) an album as much as this one.

Best Song: Yesterday Went Too Soon

2. Terrorvision – Regular Urban Survivors (1996)

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I have seen Terrorvision live more than any other band (I have lost count of the precise number of times, but it is certainly into double figures), and this is primarily because they are just so much fun. Their lyrics are often a little daft, but this is part of the charm, and the tunes they accompany are catchier than syphilis. On top of this, their energy in concert (particularly lead singer Tony Wright, who is like a newly-released monkey on speed) is unparalleled.

Regular Urban Survivors was the first Terrorvision album I purchased – on cassette no less – and I instantly loved the fake ‘film soundtrack’ theme to it. Great artwork too (and my copy is signed!)

Best Song: Celebrity Hit List

1. Mansun – Attack Of The Grey Lantern (1996)

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Perhaps an unusual choice for my number one album of the 1990s (certainly as far as my wife is concerned, who looked at me with utter disbelief when I told her), but there is not a single bad thing I can say about it. All 11 tracks are fantastic, and they run together to tell a (admittedly unusual) story about the Grey Lantern (who I believe is meant to be lead singer Paul Draper) and the characters he encounters – including Mavis and a stripping vicar. It’s like a musical version of The League Of Gentlemen, only much, much better.

This album has everything I love – strings, clever lyrics, beautiful harmonies and the best hidden bonus track of any CD I own. Perfect.

Best song: Dark Mavis

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So there you have it, my personal Top 20 of the 1990s – and not a single Oasis or Blur album in sight.

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Don’t Stop Bloggin’

It should be clear, from some of my previous entries, that I love music.

Not all music, obviously. Rap is mostly dreadful, I’m not that keen on reggae, dance music (and all its many ridiculous variations) is almost entirely crap, and the less said about the likes of Queen and Abba the better. But generally, yeah, I like my tunes.

I love nothing more than getting a new CD or download, seeing a band live, discovering artists I had not previously heard of, re-discovering forgotten albums, and making my own playlists for the car.

This got me thinking about which of the three decades that I have lived through has produced the best music, and so I decided to come up with my top 10 albums from each decade – starting with the 1980s. I have to say, I was pretty surprised by the results.

As with the Bond films countdown a few months ago, this is my personal selection, and is by no means intended to reflect the greatest albums of the decade. I know some of my choices would not feature in most people’s lists, and would be even less likely to crop up in one of those pompous music magazines, but each and every one of them is special to me for a reason.

That’s why I love music. I can barely remember what I did last week, let alone years ago, but nearly every album I own will stir a specific memory. So much so, I could probably tell you where I bought each and every one of the hundreds of CDs I have in my collection. Six by Mansun? Music Zone in Stockport (listened to a few tracks first, on those free headphones they used to have, before paying £10 for it and getting ridiculed by my mates). Pablo Honey by Radiohead? Got that in a ‘3 for £20’ deal at Our Price in Oxford, during a Sixth Form day trip to the University… You get the idea.

You don’t get these kinds of memories with downloads though, which is why I will always prefer CDs. It’s not quite the same to fondly recall purchasing a download: “Oh yeah, I remember where I was when I downloaded that…. at home, drunk, in my pants.”

Anyway, for each of my selections, I will not only explain why I love the album so much, but will try to justify it with a personal memory, and reveal my favourite song. This may be extremely self-indulgent of me (and boring for you) but, well, fuck it.

10. Thriller (Michael Jackson – 1982)

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Ok, so as soon as I’ve explained that some of my choices are a little random, I’ve immediately included the biggest selling album of all time. However, it’s not my favourite Jackson release, as you will see shortly, and some of the slower tracks (such as Baby Be Mine and The Girl Is Mine), are bloody awful, so it’s not getting any higher than tenth place.

Memory: Watching the brilliantly-choreographed Thriller video and, despite being young at the time, I was not even remotely scared by it. In fact, the only creepy thing in the whole film is a pre-werewolf Michael trying to ‘romance’ that poor girl. The signs were there, that’s all I’m saying.

Best song: Beat It

9. So (Peter Gabriel – 1986)

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If this album was any more 1980s, it would have a mullet. I’m not even a big Peter Gabriel fan, and this is the only album of his that I own, but it’s a belter. Even having Kate Bush on Don’t Give Up hasn’t ruined it. There are some tracks I’m not as keen on, but Sledgehammer (and it’s fantastically bizarre Python-esque video) more than makes up for that.

Memory: Singing Sledgehammer in the car just to annoy my wife, and getting louder and more exuberant with each protest.

Best song: Erm… Sledgehammer

8. Permanent Vacation (Aerosmith – 1987)

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Aerosmith will always be special to me, as they were the first band I ever saw live, way back in 1997 when it was still the Nynex Arena in Manchester. Well, technically the first band I saw live were Shed Seven, Aerosmith’s odd choice of support act for the evening, but you know what I mean. Permanent Vacation represents the re-birth of Aerosmith, following years of drug-fuelled albums which were largely dreadful, and this was the first release of theirs that I actually liked.

Memory: Playing Championship Manager ’93 in my room, and listening to this album on repeat.

Best song: The title track, Permanent Vacation (still the only song I own with steel drums in it)

7. Bad (Michael Jackson – 1987)

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I am almost certainly alone in my opinion that Bad is superior to Thriller, and most music journalists would have a fit when faced with such a statement, but I have never been one to follow general consensus (I don’t care what anyone says, Jedi is better than Empire, and the drummer was the hottest sister in The Corrs). Anyway, not only does Bad include my favourite Jackson song of all time, but more importantly it was released when I was seven (compared to Thriller coming out when I was two), so it had more of an impact on my musical upbringing.

Memory: Watching Moonwalker and wondering why Michael Jackson was talking to an animated rabbit on a motorbike, before being amazed by the dancing in Smooth Criminal.

Best song: The Way You Make Me Feel

6. The Stone Roses (The Stone Roses – 1989)

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Strangely, although this album was released in the (admittedly rather late) 1980s, it has a distinctly ‘90s sound to it, and more or less set the scene for the Britpop bands which followed. But, even though we can largely blame The Stone Roses for the likes of Oasis (I don’t actually mind some of their music, but the Gallagher brothers – and Liam in particular – are the most odious morons to ever grace the music scene, and I’m not just saying that because they are City fans), I really like this album.

Memory: Sitting in my friend’s lounge with some mates from school, drinking Fosters (it was acceptable back then) and playing She Bangs The Drums on his parents new stereo system. We then got a Chinese takeaway and watched Goldeneye – which is about as good as an evening gets.

Best song: I Wanna Be Adored

5. Green (REM – 1988)

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This is by no means my favourite REM album, but is certainly my preferred choice from those released in the 1980s. Green was REM’s first album since signing to Warner Bros. Records, and whilst I do like the stuff that preceded it, I much prefer everything they released from this album onwards.

Memory: Air-drumming like a lunatic to Orange Crush whilst at school

Best song: Orange Crush

4. Taking On The World (Gun – 1989)

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This is perhaps where my list takes a more obscure turn. It was actually Gun’s second release, Gallus (released in the 1990s, hence its absence here), which I heard first and fell in love with, but I then went back and picked up a copy of this debut album and instantly liked it too. Sadly, Gun released three very good albums, before deciding to adopt an unusual rock/pop/dance-fusion approach to their fourth release, and it was utterly shit.

Memory: Discovering a rare EP in the small music store that used to be above the carpet shop in Poynton. It has a version of Inside Out from this album, mixed with a cover of So Lonely by the Police.

Best song: Money (Everybody Loves Her)

3. When The World Knows Your Name (Deacon Blue – 1989)

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Despite being released in the same year as The Stone Roses, which has a very ‘90s sound, this album is firmly fixed in the ‘80s, and I love it. I only own three Deacon Blue albums (well, two plus the excellent, if poorly titled, The Very Best Of Deacon Blue), but this was the first CD I purchased of theirs, and could happily play it all day.

Memory: Testing out my new wireless headphones a few years ago, wandering around the house with Queen Of The New Year playing at potentially ear-damaging volume.

Best song: Love And Regret

2. Hysteria (Def Leppard – 1987)

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Those who know me, will not be surprised that Def Leppard have made their way onto the list. This 1987 album spawned seven hit singles, and came slap-bang in the middle of a traumatic time for the band – it was released three years after the drummer lost an arm in a motorcycle accident, and four years before guitarist Steve Clark died of an overdose. Tragedy aside, it’s a cracking album.

Memory: Playing it over and over whilst revising for my GCSEs at my Nan and Grandad’s house.

Best song: Hysteria

1. Man Of Colours (Icehouse – 1987)

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This album, quite simply, is my childhood. Few people outside of Australia – and certainly those of my age or younger – have even heard of Icehouse, but I grew up listening to this album on family holidays to Wales, and remember loving it despite being very young at the time. This is ‘80s pop-rock at its very finest, and remains one of my favourite albums of all time.

Memory: Aside from those family holidays, two other memories stand out – both from my days at university. I vividly remember discovering this album from my childhood, for just £6 at the indoor market in Lancaster, and being the most excited I have ever been to purchase a CD and dash home to play it. Then, the following year, I overheard Crazy from this album being played in B&Q, which was extremely random, but it made my day.

Best song: Crazy

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I said at the outset that I was surprised by the results of this top 10. What has struck me is that, with the exception of Man of Colours, I wouldn’t consider any of these albums to be among my all time favourites. In fact, they wouldn’t even make my Top 20. I like them all, obviously, but not anywhere near as much as others in my collection.

It’s not that I necessarily prefer the music of the ‘90s or ‘00s either, as I still consider myself a big fan of the ‘80s, so the only explanation is that I like a number of songs from that decade, without necessarily owning albums by those artists.  I can quite easily list twenty songs from the 1980s that I absolutely love, without either owning an album by that artist, or liking it enough for it to beat any of the other ten in my countdown:

  1. The Cult – She Sells Sanctuary (1985)
  2. Hall & Oates – Out of Touch (1984)
  3. Dire Straits – Walk of Life (1985)
  4. Don Henley – The Boys of Summer (1984)
  5. Go West – We Close Our Eyes (1985)
  6. Guns N’ Roses – Sweet Child O’ Mine (1988)
  7. The Housemartins – Happy Hour (1986)
  8. Huey Lewis And The News – The Power of Love (1985) – from the greatest film ever
  9. Genesis – Invisible Touch (1986)
  10. New Order – True Faith (1987)
  11. Prefab Sprout – The King Of Rock ‘n’ Roll (1988)
  12. Roachford – Cuddly Toy (1988)
  13. Starship – We Built This City (1985)
  14. Whitesnake – Here I Go Again (1982)
  15. Bananarama – Cruel Summer (1983)
  16. Paul Simon – You Can Call Me Al (1986)
  17. The La’s – There She Goes (1988)
  18. Journey – Don’t Stop Believin’ (1981)
  19. Toto – Africa (1982)
  20. Madness – Wings Of A Dove (1983)

And that’s just off the top of my head (well, the dates weren’t), so there are bound to be many more. Anyway, I shall leave you with this 1980s/Daily Mail themed joke:

Bloody Foreigner, coming over here, demanding to know what love is.

(Ooh, I’ve just spotted the word count: 1987)

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And You Can Tell Everybody, This Is Your Blog

How often do you listen to music? I mean really listen to it?

Sometimes, you will have heard a song a hundred times before you actually listen to it properly, or understand it, but so long as the tune is good, the lyrics often get overlooked. You might know all the words, and you might even sing along to them, but every now and then you’ll stop yourself and have to go back for another listen.

“Are we human, or are we dancer?”

Excuse me, what?

Ok, that was a bad example, as that song happens to be rubbish anyway, but you get the idea.

I’m not saying stupid lyrics would necessarily put me off listening to a song, but I do prefer it when they make sense, and especially if they are either poignant or amusing.

Unfortunately, modern music is not especially well known for having cleverly crafted lyrics. I have desperately tried to cling on to my youth, by listening to Radio 1 since returning to the world of commuting, but have recently had to accept (with considerable sorrow) that I am now officially too old. We had a good run, Radio 1, but over the years I was working locally and wasn’t listening to you in the car, we grew apart. It’s not you, it’s me. Actually, no, it is you. Your taste in music is horrendous nowadays.

Anyway, a few weeks ago I decided to embrace middle-age and give Radio 2 a whirl. It turns out that’s not for me either. Well, not yet at least. I still have all my own hair, and haven’t quite lost control of any of my bodily functions (my wife may disagree), so I’ll give it a miss for now, and perhaps try again in a few years when I buy my convertible. The thing is, they don’t play enough music, and when they do it’s all a bit dreary. Maybe I caught them at a bad time, but I was dangerously close to falling asleep at the wheel.

As far as I am concerned, music was at its best between the mid-1980’s and the early-2000’s, but no major radio stations seem to cater for that. I’m stuck in the limbo between Radio 1 and Radio 2.

So in the end, I turned – almost in desperation – to local radio. After skipping past a number of stations who were all bizarrely playing Hungry Like The Wolf by Duran Duran at the same time (I’m not even joking, it got to the point where I assumed Simon Le Bon must have died), I stumbled across Signal 1 (incidentally, the only decent thing to come out of Stoke since the A50) playing Your Song by Elton John.

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Simon Le Bon: Not dead (as at 31st July 2015)

Now, I quite like this track as it happens, and must have heard and sung along to it countless times over the years, but on this particular day, as I yearned to find a radio station I could have a long-term relationship with, I really heard the lyrics for the first time.

And they are properly, utterly, dreadful.

Let me explain…

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“It’s a little bit funny, this feeling inside”

Ok, fair enough, not a bad start. Elton has got me intrigued about this funny feeling inside him (oh, behave).

“I’m not one of those who can easily hide”

No shit, Elton. If you’d wanted to hide, might I suggest wearing something slightly less glittery, brightly-coloured and flamboyant? There is a reason you’ve never seen Ray Mears sporting a feather boa.

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“I don’t have much money, but boy if I did, I’d buy a big house where we both could live”

Hmm. I’m not convinced. Whilst this song was admittedly his first big hit, way back in 1970, I still reckon he wasn’t as skint as he’s making out here. I’m pretty sure he could have stretched to a semi at least (I said, behave).

 “If I was a sculptor, but then again, no. Or a man who makes potions in a travelling show”

Right, even if I ignore the piss-poor grammar, what does this even mean? It doesn’t really follow on from the last line, and sure as hell doesn’t lead in to the next one, so it makes no sense whatsoever. It’s the ramblings of a mad man.

If this is Elton contemplating a sudden career change, not only is it inappropriate to do so mid-song, but he should really be looking at more conventional occupations. Sculpting is a bugger to get into at the best of times (and even harder to make any real money out of if he wants to buy a big house), and I’m pretty certain ‘travelling potion man’ is something he’s just made up.

“I know it’s not much, but it’s the best I can do. My gift is my song and this one’s for you”

That’s a nice gesture Elton, really it is, but a few seconds ago you were saying you would buy me a big house to live in, and now all of a sudden you’re offering something with no monetary value whatsoever? Tell you what, if this song really is a gift, sign any royalties over to me and we’ll call it quits.

“And you can tell everybody, this is your song”

Maybe I will, but it’s a little presumptuous to assume I even want it in the first place, isn’t it? Luckily for you, I quite like the tune, but we need to work on these lyrics.

 “It may be quite simple, but now that it’s done”

True, it’s not the most overly-complicated composition of all time, but I think Elton is doing himself a disservice here. Being someone with no musical talent whatsoever, I’m impressed by anyone who can write a song, let alone play piano and sing it too. It’s certainly too early to be jacking it all in to join a travelling show, no matter how many potions he might have up his sleeve.

 “I hope you don’t mind”

Why? What have you done?

 “I hope you don’t mind…”

Yes, you’ve said that already, get on with it.

“…that I put down in words. How wonderful life is, while you’re in the world”

Why would I mind you saying that? It’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me. Hold me, Elton. Don’t say anything else, just hold me.

“I sat on the roof, and kicked off the moss”

Well, that was a mood killer. Where did that come from, and what the hell are you now doing on a roof? One minute you’re travelling around the country making potions, and now you’re a fucking steeplejack? Pick a career and stick to it man.

Besides, don’t take this the wrong way, Elton, but you don’t strike me as the adventurous roof-climbing type, so there’s a good chance you’ll fall and hurt yourself. It’s just plain reckless if you want my opinion. Even if you don’t fall, you might end up hurting someone else by kicking shit off a roof at them, and at best anyone walking past is going to get a face full of soggy moss. I’d suggest you get down from there immediately and start acting your age.

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Things you don’t want kicked in your face from a great height – #436: Moss

 “Well, a few of the verses, well they’ve got me quite cross”

If I’m honest, that last line has me pretty pissed off too. You wrote the damn thing though. If the words are getting you angry, you had the chance to change them before you recorded the song. Plus, this is meant to be a gift isn’t it? Why would you write me a song with lyrics that make you angry? That’s just mean.

“But the sun’s been quite kind, while I wrote this song”

Another weird tangent. It’s ok that the words have made you angry, because you got a tan while you wrote them, is that what you’re saying? You’re furious, but fabulously bronze at the same time?

“It’s for people like you, that keep it turned on”

Keep what turned on? The sun? You do realise the sun kind of powers itself, don’t you? I mean, I appreciate the gesture, but it’s a little over the top and I’d prefer it if you were more realistic. If you’d said “keeps me turned on”, it would have been a bit forward and pervy, but at least it would have made sense.

“So excuse me forgetting, but these things I do. You see, I’ve forgotten if they’re green, or they’re blue. Anyway, the thing is, what I really mean”

You’re rambling again, Elton, and your grammar is appalling. Where did you go to school? Get to the point man, for pity’s sake.

“Yours are the sweetest eyes, I’ve ever seen”

That’s another lovely sentiment Elton, truly it is, but I’m starting to see all these grandiose gestures for what they really are. It’s all well and good saying my eyes are the sweetest you’ve ever seen, but if that were really true, you’d have at the very least remembered what sodding colour they are. Don’t think you can flatter me and get away with the fact you clearly haven’t paid any attention to what I look like.

“And you can tell everybody, this is your song”

Yeah, you’ve said that already, but I’m not sure I even want your stupid song anymore. You make all these extravagant gestures, tell me you’ll buy us a house, and compare me to the sun, but when push comes to shove you’re still a nutter who’s planning on kicking moss in my face from thirty feet up.

Besides, I’m a stickler for proper grammar, so I don’t think I could be in a long-term relationship with someone who thinks the line “if I was a sculptor, but then again, no. Or a man who makes potions in a travelling show” is good English.

Anyway, my eyes are browny-green.

So thanks, but no thanks. You can stick Your Song where monkeys shove bad nuts.

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Top Of The Blogs

I’ve mentioned before that I’m part of an online group of Stockport County fans called ‘County Heaven’.

Recently, we decided to come up with our ultimate A-Z of music – a different artist beginning with each letter of the alphabet. Naturally, our tastes all differed, so I’ve come up with my own personal list. And here it is:

DISC ONE

1. A – Old Folks

If you haven’t heard of A, and you most likely haven’t, they’re a pop-punk outfit from the ‘90s and ‘00s who are sadly no longer together as a band. In truth, the lead singer isn’t the best at singing, but their songs are so damn catchy. They’re like musical herpes. This track has elements of The Police to it, and is worth a listen if only for the not-too-great-but-quite-funny lyrics: “You did a war/and now you’re poor/and like your friends/you’re gonna get it in the end/the old folks are useless/they can’t work computers/they die in December time”. There are better bands beginning with A, and Aerosmith very nearly made my list as being the first band I ever saw live, but I’d always keep going back to this song time and time again, so it just edged in front for my CD.

2. Ben Folds Five – Brick

An achingly beautiful track, even more so when you learn the background to it. I still choke up when I listen to it even now, more than a decade since the first time I heard it. Ben Folds has since gone solo, and has written some equally fantastic songs since doing so, but if you listen to this piano-based ballad, and focus on the lyrics – which revolve around the heartbreaking true events of him and his girlfriend having to get an abortion when they were young – you can’t help but get emotional. Then again, I cry at everything these days.

3. Counting Crows – Sullivan Street

I have a number of very good bands/artists beginning with C in my collection, but there was no question of which group was making the grade for ‘C’. The problem I had, was narrowing down the many albums I own, let alone finding just the one track to put on my CD. In the end, I plumped for their debut offering (‘August and Everything After’) which is a fantastic album, and rather than go for the more obvious ‘Mr Jones’, which perhaps many of you will know, I decided on ‘Sullivan Street’. I change my mind regularly about which song of theirs I like the most, and if I were to compile a Counting Crows ‘best of’ CD, the track-listing would change daily, but this song would always feature.

4. Dave Matthews Band – Two Step

Again, there was no doubt that this band would make my album, even though most people I speak to have never heard of them. Were it not for an American student I got to know at University, who introduced me to their ‘Crash’ album, I would most likely never have known about them, and my life would be just that little bit emptier as a result. They haven’t really enjoyed much success this side of the pond, despite being huge in the States (playing, on one occasion, to over 100,000 people in Central Park). The one time I did see them live, I had to travel to the Wolverhampton Civic Hall to do so. That shows you how much I like them. Wolverhampton for Christ’s sake. Thankfully, they did not disappoint – playing for nearly three hours. They’ll be at Manchester Apollo in November, and I haven’t looked forward to a gig this much in some time.

5. Eve 6 – On The Roof Again

Oh dear, I’m becoming rather predictable. If you know me, the fact that Eve 6 are on my album will be no surprise whatsoever. Narrowing down which track to put on was again a little difficult, but I thought back to which song I would always return to, and this is it. The lyrics are fantastic and very clever, and the tune is ridiculously catchy. If I had a list of bands I’ve never seen live but would love to, this group would be top.

6. The Frames – Fitzcarraldo

As with Dave Matthews Band, if it hadn’t have been for someone I studied with (this time an Irish girl at Law School), I would most likely never have heard of The Frames, and I now own every album they have ever released – of which there are quite a few. I also own one album by a band calling themselves The Frames, which I bought by accident thinking it was them. Turns out there is also a German electro-thrash metal outfit of the same name. Who knew? Their similarities with Dave Matthews Band (the actual Frames, not the German thrashers) also extend to the fact they are very popular in their home nation whilst not so much over here, and their songs feature strings quite a bit. I’m a sucker for a good fiddle, so to speak. Fitzcarraldo is just over 6 minutes of Irish folk-rock perfection.

7. Garbage – The Trick is To Keep Breathing

Garbage are perhaps known for being, at times, a heavy rock band, but this is a far more chilled-out song from their second album – ‘Version 2.0’. It’s one of those songs that I can listen to over and over and never tire of, and adds something a little different to my album. If you do nothing else today, get a copy of this song, turn the lights out and the volume up, and wallow in its magnificence.

8. Hoobastank – The Reason

Plenty of contenders for H, but I’ve tried where possible to include songs that mean something personally, even if they aren’t the best musically or lyrically. This song represents a certain period of my life, was loved by both myself and my wife – to the extent I uncharacteristically sang it with her at a karaoke party some years ago – and the video is a quite-clever Oceans 11 style bank heist. What’s not to like?

9. Idlewild – Tell Me Ten Words

With the exception of Terrorvision, there is no band I have seen live more times than Idlewild – the first time being in support of Ash in Manchester in the late ‘90s. Their debut EP, and then full length album, were, in parts, ridiculously heavy, and at the time I loved them. But what I like best about Idlewild, is that they’ve grown older with me. As my music tastes have mellowed, so have their albums. It’s like they know me, and only release stuff they think I’ll like. Bless ‘em. Sadly, their latest album is sh*t, but I’ll forgive them that because this song is so damn good and, as with many of my choices, I’ll never tire of it.

10. Jimmy Eat World – 23

No surprises here. If you know anything about me, you’ll know this is arguably my favourite song of all time, from my favourite ever album – ‘Futures’. Pure genius. A great live band too – I even travelled to Milton Keynes twice to see them; once in support of Green Day, and then in support of Foo Fighters. They are, unquestionably, the nice guys of rock. They always arrive on stage bang on time (once, they were a minute early), and look like their respective mums have not only dressed them, but are back stage with a packed lunch each for after the show.

11. The Killers – Smile Like You Mean It

Bit of a bittersweet choice this one. I absolutely love this song, and the debut album from which it came, but unfortunately The Killers have been utter toss ever since. Nuff said.

12. Longview – Further

Another band very few people know about. They only have one album (I assume they aren’t releasing any more, as this was over 10 years ago and their Wikipedia page has gone quieter than Rolf Harris’ ever since). Shame, as it’s a great album and this, the opening track, is about as good as music gets. Oh, and it has strings in it… I bloody love strings in rock songs. Have I mentioned that?

13. Mansun – The Chad Who Loved Me

What a way to end my first disc. Mansun’s first offering – ‘Attack of the Grey Lantern’ – is my favourite debut album of all time (yes, I have to categorise my favourite albums to give more than one a chance) and this is the opening track. ‘Wide Open Space’ and ‘Stripper Vicar’ are certainly better known, but as far as album openings go, this is astonishing. The album even ends as it begins, and tells a story (albeit an extremely bizarre one) throughout – prog rock at its finest. Lastly, it reminds me of 6th form – when girls were rejecting me left, right and centre, Mansun never let me down. It’s one of those rare albums that I can listen to without skipping a single track (yes, even ‘Taxloss’), and never get bored of.

I’d like to give an honorary mention here to Motion City Soundtrack, and their song ‘Last Night’. Unfortunately for them, I’ve been listening to Mansun far longer. If I repeat this list in a few years, ‘Last Night’ could very well substitute in. Motion City Soundtrack are the one and only band ever to be suggested in my itunes ‘Recommendations’ page that I’ve actually fallen in love with. Normally, I get messages like: “If you like Mansun, you might like Madonna, as she begins with M too, and once went to Chester…..”

DISC TWO

1. New Order – World In Motion

The greatest football song, for the greatest World Cup, ever. Can’t say any more than that. Any song that can get away with having John Barnes rap in the middle of it must be doing something right.

2. The Offspring – Million Miles Away

Ok, so they’re a bit daft. And a lot of their earlier stuff sounds the same. But so help me this is a good song. I like tracks that build up as they progress to a cacophonous conclusion, particularly when, as in this case, that involves lots of backing singers, singing different lyrics at the same time. Sadly, there are no strings (had there been strings and overlapping backing vocals, I would have been especially weak of knee), but it’s still a good song. A special shout out to OK Go, who, had this been an A-Z of my favourite music videos, would certainly have featured. Sadly, their songs don’t necessarily live up to the videos.

3. Placebo – Without You I’m Nothing

I very, very, nearly agreed with the County Heaven CD here, and opted for Pink Floyd’s ‘Comfortably Numb’, but, as with many of my decisions, this is a song that I could listen to over and over, and immediately transports me back to my room in halls at Lancaster University, blasting it out at full volume with the window open because it was so warm and sunny outside. For a special treat, listen to the version they did with Bowie.

4. Queen – You’re My Best Friend

Sod it. You all know my thoughts on Queen, but there really are no other viable alternatives as far as I’m concerned, and this song is, in all honesty, very good indeed. Plus, I promised myself I’d stick at least one of the songs from our C.H.U.M.S. collection onto my own album, so here it is. A ‘90s band called The Supernaturals (you probably know their song ‘Smile’ which has been on at least 17 adverts) covered it, and did a rather good job too.

5. R.E.M. – It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

Again, with the possible threat of Radiohead’s ‘Street Spirit (Fade Out)’, R.E.M. were always going to get onto my album. Besides, anything Radiohead have released post-OK Computer is utter toss, so they’ve effectively eliminated themselves by being smug tw**s (despite this, keep an eye out for Bono making an appearance shortly). Narrowing it down from R.E.M.’s colossal back catalogue was tough, but I’ve gone for this song because, not only is learning all the words one of my greatest achievements (along with finding a woman who was willing to marry me), but they always used to end with it live and it’s just a brilliant, brilliant pop song.

6. Silversun – Lava

Continuing the trend of people undoubtedly responding with “Who?”, Silversun enjoyed brief success in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s – mostly thanks to appearing regularly on TFI Friday – and this, from their debut album (they only had two), is utterly barking-mad genius. It’s like a heavy version of The Beach Boys, and the whole of that eponymous album is perfect for driving around to, with the windows down and the stereo up high, on a hot summer’s day.

7. Terrorvision – If I Was You

Terrorvision are, in my eyes, almost without fault. I never shut up about them, so their inclusion here is surely no surprise to anyone. Even I can admit that they aren’t the greatest musicians ever, but my God can they write a pop/rock song. If I was to compile this album based purely on bands and songs that are fun, Terrorvision would fill all 26 slots, regardless of the alphabet. I’ve gone for ‘If I Was You’ as, not only will it’s length (almost exactly two minutes), provide a nice contrast to some of the longer, more anthemic, songs – like ‘23’ for example – but it’s a great song to hear live. Even better, Ollie learned all the words when he was only 3, and performed them on film for me so I could send it to the lead singer, Tony Wright, on Facebook. Good ol’ Tone seemed delighted too.

8. U2 – With Or Without You

Let’s get one thing straight first – Bono is a kn*bhead. I know that. You know that. Hell, deep down, I’m sure he knows that, if he’s honest. But, for me personally, there are no other contenders for the letter ‘U’, and this really is a good song. Sorry. I’ll leave it there though, as somewhere in the world Bono’s ego just swelled slightly, and that can only be a dangerous thing.

9. The Verve – Bitter Sweet Symphony

The Verve seemingly disappeared after some huge success in the ‘90s with their ‘Urban Hymns’ album, only to re-emerge a few years back. They probably wished they hadn’t, as they didn’t get close to recreating the impact they had a decade or so earlier. Still, this was their first offering to the world, had a ludicrous video of Richard Ashcroft essentially assaulting everyone in the street with his massive leather-jacket clad shoulders (if they’d filmed that in Stockport, he’d have been decked inside a minute) and, as we all know by now, strings = success.

10. Roddy Woomble – My Secret Is My Silence

I’ve just realised that this is the first solo artist to make my album, and we’re nearly at the end. There’s a good chance that you won’t have heard of the stupidly-named Roddy Woomble, but don’t hold his parent’s poor baby-naming abilities against him. He’s the lead singer of Idlewild and, as I mentioned earlier, as I grew older and more mellow in my musical tastes, so did they. This must surely have been influenced by Roddy, who then chose to do a very Irish-sounding folk album (which is strange, because he’s more Scottish than Billy Connolly).

11. Charli XCX – Boom Clap

Time to stretch the rules slightly. Whilst I’m sure Charli XCX should be disqualified, on the grounds I’m 99% certain her surname is not, in fact, XCX (unless she’s Eastern European and it’s pronounced like someone coughing and sneezing at the same time), the truth is I’ve been through the list of bands and artists beginning with X and they’re either crap or I know nothing about them – and even less about their music. So, I’m cheating and voting for this song which was only released at the tail end of last year. So now my CD has some street cred with the yoof of today too. Lovely.

12. Yes – Owner Of A Lonely Heart

Hand on heart, I’m not sure I could name another Yes song if my life depended on it, so I can hardly call myself a fan of theirs, but I do like this song very much. Also, and this no way swayed my decision, but the video for the remix done by Max Graham as few years back (you know it’s cool, because it’s labelled as ‘Max Graham vs. Yes’ and we all know a ‘vs’ means it’s cool) features lots of scantily clad young lovelies. Brilliant.

13. Warren Zevon – Werewolves Of London

This is a shame. I do like this song, and as far as I’m concerned it has no competition whatsoever for the letter Z, but it’s also the weakest track on my collection (in my humblest of opinions), so this feels like something of an anti-climax. It’s a shame the alphabet doesn’t end with the letter ‘J’ really, as if this truly were my mix tape, I’d end with something soaring like ‘23’. Still, everyone knows that the second disc of any compilation is always the worst, and usually tails off with a few tracks to go, so I’ve done well to make it this far.

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