Rubbish, piffle, tommyrot, drivel and utter bilge

Friday, April 29, 2011

Indie Name Of Beards

According to Jack "Skippy" McFadden, head talent buyer at Union Hall and the Bell House, as told to the New York Times: "Beards are like the 2009 version of the anti-guitar solo. In the early '90s, indie bands like Pavement and Sonic Youth made guitar solos obsolete, it was embarrassing to play something that evoked Whitesnake. Today, beards are a way of hiding behind a certain confidence and saying, 'Hey, I'm not a clean-shaven, TV-happy, American-Idol type, I'm more a warm cuddly artist who needs to not attract more attention to the fact that, yes, I'm cute, but I'm a little dirty, kinda like it's 1974.' Also, do you know how much it costs to shave?"

Interesting theory, uh, Skippy. But it's true though - if you have an indie rock band, particularly one of those there popular-type folkwave bands, then one of you will have to grow a beard, or at the very least some serious stubble or a 'tash. Here are a few examples:

Built To Spill:
Not bad. Going for the Deadliest Catch look here, I feel.

Fleet Foxes:
Nice, fellas. Three out of five ain't bad.

The Thrills:
Hmmm. Must try harder. the dude second left is really going for the retro gear, though.

We Are Scientists:
Guy in the middle is workin' it.

Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros:

Wow. I count seven beards, a tash and some stubble. You guys win.

Death Cab For Cutie:
50%. Needs work.

Seems like the key to success here is the hairy face. Sometimes it helps if there's a lot of flannel present and perhaps a woolly hat or two. Glasses seem only to add to the indieness. 

Now, where did I put my Gillette Mach II?

100 Records That Shook The World, # 44

What's Going On (LP)

Marvin Gaye

Marvin Gaye's 11th album "What's Going On" has to be without a shadow of a doubt the absolute greatest Soul and R&B album in music history. It's one of those must-have masterpieces that should be in every record collection. Yes, "Sgt. Pepper" was influential, but "What's Going On" was a different kind of influence. Not to open your mind to drugs, and new experiences, but to open your mind to love and peace. Sly & The Family Stone might have psychedelicized soul music, but Marvin Gaye personalized it, and he literally poured out every emotion onto this record.

In early 1970 Marvin had fallen into a deep depression after the death from a brain tumor of fellow Motown artist and Gaye's singing partner Tammi Terrell. Marvin refused to record or perform and seriously considered quitting the music business altogether, even going so far as to try out for the Detroit Lions.
Gaye then came in contact with musician Al Cleveland and the Four Tops' Renaldo "Obie" Benson, who were working on a politically conscious song called "What's Going On". Gaye assisted Cleveland and Benson in completing the composition, and planned to produce the song as a recording for the Motown act The Originals. However, Cleveland and Benson persuaded Gaye to record the song himself.
In June 1970, Gaye recorded "What's Going On" and his own composition, "God Is Love", which further expanded Gaye's inclusion of his spirituality in his music. Recording such material was a different direction for Gaye, who had previously performed and recorded radio-formatted and contemporary songs that were more representative of the Gordy-produced Motown Sound rather than politically or socially-conscious music. When Gaye delivered the songs as the sides for his next 45 RPM single his brother-in-law, Motown Records CEO Berry Gordy, Jr., objected to the material and refused to release the recordings. After already permitting other Motown artists to record and release material that hinted social and political themes – Edwin Starr's "War", The Temptations' "Ball of Confusion", both released earlier in 1970, and Stevie Wonder's "Heaven Help Us All", released later in the year – Gordy considered "What's Going On" far too political to be released on radio and also too unfamiliar for the popular music and sound of that time to be commercially successful.Gaye, however, stood his ground and continued to lobby his case to label executives and to Gordy, as he did not want to be bound by Gordy's or Motown's version of music.
Gordy eventually gave in, certain that the record would flop. Upon its release in January 1971, "What's Going On" became Motown's fastest selling single at that point, going to the number-one spot on the R&B charts for five weeks and number-two for three weeks on the Pop listings, with "Joy to the World" by Three Dog Night retaining the top spot.
Although Motown initially didn't even want to release the record, the unexpected success of What's Going On, issued in 1971, inspired Stevie Wonder, Curtis Mayfield, and just about every other black artist on the planet to take greater responsibility for their music and its meaning. Gaye co-wrote the songs and produced the album, flavouring it with layer upon layer of his own multi-tracked vocals, oceans of hand percussion, strings, flutes, and jazzy horn solos. Spacey and loose as a spliff-fueled Sunday afternoon jam in the park, the nine songs all played like a hit single. There are no pauses between the tracks, the rhythm section just keeps going & flowing and the whole record pushes forward as a real soultrain, weaving songs seamlessly into each other.

The album features three of Gaye's biggest hits [the title track, "Mercy Mercy Me”, and "Inner City Blues"(Make Me Wanna Holler)]. However, after a couple of listens the fact that there are three major hits on here becomes somewhat secondary to the album as a whole. The album is unquestionably an entity in and of itself. Headlines from the early 70’s (the ecology, drug addiction, poverty, the plight of the Vietnam veterans) weave together the backdrop for this album but the album's underlying theme is always one of a hope for a better tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Nostalgia Ain't What It Used To Be

Back in the day when I was but a young whippersnapper, local newspapers, especially the free variety, were an entirely different animal. These days they are glossy and more magazine-like, lots of colour and such. But really not much in the way of substance. Lovely pictures, yes. Lots of info about local happenings, but they all end up being like one giant ad for stuff you cannot afford.

Back when I was young there were three main ones. There was the What's On, a glorified pamphlet really, with a semi-glossy cover which had the same basic artwork of the church on the banner but a different colour every month (yes, it was a monthly) and it was full of info about church services and dispensing chemists and coffee morning and WI meetings, along with ads for local businesses such as Webb's, Knight's hairdressers, Tenterden Taxis and Potter Bros.

Then there was the Ashford Advertiser, a weekly rag with a couple articles of nothing very exciting on the front and classified ads in the rest of it. In the later part of the 80s I seem to recall it was replaced by the KM extra, although it still exists in a wildly different format now, more a magazine-style thing than a newspaper, but printed in basic black and white and only available in the Tenterden Gateway, apparently.

Also in the late 80s appeared the Wealden Advertiser  which is still around and is basically the same as it always was with the notable exception that you can now read it online, and some of the ads are interactive! Woo hoo!

The other main free rag from that time was the Adscene  which seemed to revel in its glorious cheap-and-nastiness and shoddy writing. The ads were in there just like in the Ashford Advertiser but they used a different typeface to make it look more cool and new, and they made an attempt to include articles throughout, as well as car reviews and entertainment news.

Why am I telling you this? Well, the other day I was helping my Sis have a clear-out of her shed and in there was an old trouser-press which had belonged to my grandparents, who used to live in that house. I could see something sticking out of the trouser-press and so, being a curious chap, I had to open it and find out. There inside were pages from an edition of Adscene dated Friday October 21, 1983.
Hooo boy. Here was a trip down memory lane of the highest order. So let's leaf through these pages and have a looksee what we can find out...

For starters we can see that house prices were wildly different. The three 'Houses Of the Week' listed  were a 3 bed detached house with a garage and space for 3 cars in Herne Bay for £37,950, a 2-bed ground floor flat with private parking and a 95-year lease in Folkestone for £24,750 and a Sittingbourne 2 bed end terrace with garage and double glazing for a mere £21,500. Wow.

Next page includes a review of the new Nissan/Datsun Cherry Turbo, 1.5L fuel injected hatchback, an 'exciting sports saloon giving the family man the opportunity to enjoy his driving while still having an entirely practical hatchback for more domestic outings'. Price - a sweet £6600.

At the Renault dealership they were offering a brand new Fidelity Wanderer cordless telephone with the purchase of any new Renault. The Renault 9 Freeway was available for a cool £4995 on the road.

Moving on to the job ads, there seemed to be several openings in the printing industry, for job titles including Paste-up Comp, Process Colour Platemaker andTypographer. Also an intriguing ad for women. "If you're a woman and you want to get into selling, here's your first appointment." bellows the headline, followed by a long bit of guff about 'starting a sales career with Britain's largest professional sales training organisation.' Apparently, ladies, you could 'realistically expect salary, commission and expenses of £6,000 in your first year.' Doesn't that sound exciting?

The Leisure & Information Roundup  includes pieces about Kent & East Sussex Railway's Children's Days, a chance to learn all about the harpsichord at Ashford library and a lecture by renowned wildlife artist David Shepherd at The Stour Centre.
Not David Shepherd. Just one of his paintings.

An interesting ad on the same page for a place on Elwick Road named The Wig and Gavel, presumably named because of its close proximity to the Courthouse, states that "The Private Hall of The Wig & Gavel is now available for Weddings, receptions or other Private Functions. Mr & Mrs Stoker now invite you to come and visit the hall in its newly decorated state."

At the Kent Suite of The Top Rank in Ashford High Street was a dance exercise class named "Body Shop", offering 'Dance Aerobics Jazz Ballet, "Funky Disco" etc.'

In the cinema was National Lampoon's Vacation, Flash Gordon, Staying Alive and The Dark Crystal.

Ah! the TV listings! Excellent!

These were the days when we only had 4 channels, and on a Saturday TV started at 6.25 am on TVS with TV-am,

8.25 am on BBC1 with Inch High Private Eye,  10.10 am on BBC2 with Open University  and not until 1.55pm on the new Channel 4 with A Kind Of Living. Some of the shows will be very familiar to you US folks, such as Remington Steele, Hart To Hart, Benson, Diff'rent Strokes, Magoo, Hardcastle & McCormick... however the English shows you'll be less familiar with.

 My friends over here will probably get a huge blast of nostalgia from these names though... Saturday Superstore, Terrahawks, Hi-De-Hi!, The Noel Edmonds Late Late Breakfast Show, Blankety Blank, Juliet Bravo, Carrott's Lib, Russ Abbot's Madhouse, Game For A Laugh, Brookside, The Sky At Night, Play Your Cards Right, Omnibus, Heart Of The Matter, The South Bank Show and Right To Reply. There were also all the weird and wonderful morning shows on Sunday that covered not only religion and farming but politics (Weekend World) and all those shows for 'minorities' like Digame! and Murun Bucsanstangur.

Sports programming was different too. Saturday lunchtimes were not the same without either World Of Sport featuring the fabulous Dickie Davies on ITV or the Beeb's Grandstand with Desmond Lynam and the wonderful Bob Wilson with Football Focus.  This particular weekend featured horseracing from Newbury, International Snooker, Boxing and Darts.

Sunday's TV was always a bit varied, with BBC1 always having an afternoon matinee (Half A Sixpence), period drama (Jane Eyre), a bit of Bonanza, Songs Of Praise in the early evening and some more historical drama (By The Sword Divided).

ITV's programming on Sunday replaced the afternoon matinee with American shows like Battlestar Galactica, quiz shows such as Sale Of The Century and University Challenge and then the early evening brought us another religious show, Highway,  then later we'd have Agatha Christie's Partners In Crime and Clive James on Television.

There were always strange late-night shows(Join Us For Bridge, Company)follwed usually by the weather and Closedown, where one would see the station logo (that famous spinning globe or similar) and hear the strains of the National Anthem, followed by a black screen and finally, snow and white noise.

The next pages have articles about a couple who 'plan to beat redundancy' by turning their Tudor cottage into a B&B (not sure if they ever did, but the cottage is still there), a plan to turn a disused school building into a community centre, a club for disabled people looking for more members, and a visit to the Eastwell Manor Hotel by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The Kent branch of the Elvis Presley fan club were planning to hold a six-hour video and disco show devoted to the King.

Then there were some of the recurring ads each week that had memorable names or taglines. "Don't Just Seed It - SOD IT!", "Tip-It Mini Skips" and "Come To Terms With Hartnell-Brede Motors" are ones you just don't forget overnight.

There were full page ads for B&Q DIY Superstore (Shop Late 'Til 8 Monday To Saturday, Vymura £3.75 a roll), and Queensway (Autumn Sale Bonanza, Geneva 3-Piece Suite £299.95) and even Tesco, where we learn that baked beans were 16p a can, 5lb of frozen peas were £1.06 and a bottle of Quosh was 39 and a half pence. You could also buy 4 toilet rolls for 59p. Whoa.

Times have changed and so have we. Prices have risen, places have come and gone but news has essentially stayed the same. The one thing I really do miss, though, is that back in the 80s the free papers and adsheets like Adscene and Advertiser came to your door, and now you have to hunt them down. Finding your weekly copy of the Wealden Advertiser is a weekly ritual, usually involving going to Waitrose or somewhere similar.

Well, I suppose it gets you out of the house, doesn't it?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Musical Puzzler: What's Up, Earthlets?

I asked a while back on The Puzzler about the record that was made by Carl 'Chas Smash' Smyth and Graham McPherson (aka Suggs) from Madness that was their homage to the comic 2000AD and its 'hero' Judge Dredd. I wanted to know what name the two Nutty Boys recorded the record under, and if you knew it, the title of said track. Well, all is about to be revealed.

The record's title was "Mutants In Mega-City One" b/w "Mutant Blues", and the artist name was The Fink Brothers. No-one other than my sister (who is a massive Madness fan) took a stab at it, so Sis, victory is yours.

Yes, Earthlets, I bought this record.

The Fink Brothers was a side project that Carl and Suggs undertook in 1985 after setting up the Zarjazz record label to expand the creativity of the band into other areas. They were both avid 2000AD readers at the time of this project and they took the name the Fink Brothers from the comic strip Judge Dredd .

Fink Angel and Mean Machine Angel are two members of the angel gang a vicious band of hill-billy mutants from the waste land outside of Mega-city one. Sworn enemies of Judge Dredd, not least because he killed most of their family.

According to Carl, "The word 'Zarjazz' (the name of their record label) is 2000 A.D. talk. It's a word we use when we talk to each other: we used to say 'nutty', now we say 'zarjazz'. It means 'great, 'brilliant'."

So there you have it, people.

Here's the record.

Now, next question:

Suggs married a girl named Bette Bright. With which art-rock outfit was she the singer?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Is It Just Me Or...?

OK, so I mentioned recently about the impending closure of the shop where I work and the recent closure of our near neighbour Shelly's Tea Rooms in my post Cynical, Me?
In it I talked about one of the employees who were gutting Shelly's and repainting it letting slip that the place was going to be turned into an ice cream parlour. Well, work has been steadily progressing and tomorrow the place actually opens for real. So, let's see... Shelly's packed up and left on the 3rd, tomorrow is the 22nd. Nineteen days have passed by and the place is ready for business. That is going some. I trust I can leave you to your own conclusions as to which pair of large balding obnoxious South African ex-cricketers own the joint. 

But leaving all that hideousness aside, I noticed something as I went outside today to have a look at the large gaily painted wooden sign which was waiting to adorn the outside of said emporium. Well, I say 'I noticed', I mean 'it hit me in the face like a freaking Mack truck because it was such a glaring error'. Here is the sign...

Please, please tell me you can see it.
Glad to see Tenterden's finest businessmen going over every detail with a fine-tooth comb. I'll leave you to make up your own jokes.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


On May 5th here in this country there is going to be a nationwide referendum on the voting system for UK Parliamentary Elections. We are going to be voting on whether to change the system from the current system known as First Past The Post to a new system which been christened AV (for Alternative Vote, but I am sure it will be rechristened if it becomes our new system).

There has been a lot of talk from various sides for and against, to the point now where I cannot decide. So many people are undecided. I am sure that it doesn't help that our coalition leaders are divided on the topic. Nick Clegg, deputy PM and LibDem leader, wants it. David Cameron, the PM and Tory leader, does not. As for me, I am really challenged on this, not least because I am not happy with either system and would much rather see Proportional Representation get a shot. But that will probably never happen in Parliamentary Elections because it's, ahem, a bit too fair, lets a lot of minor parties have a better chance and basically scares the livin' willies out of the Tories.

What is AV?

The Alternative Vote (AV) is very much like First-Past-the-Post (FPTP). Like FPTP, it is used to elect representatives for single-member constituencies, except that rather than simply marking one solitary 'X' on the ballot paper, the voter has the chance to rank the candidates on offer.
The voter thus puts a '1' by their first-preference candidate, and can continue, if they wish, to put a '2' by their second-preference, and so on, until they don't care anymore or they run out of names. In some AV elections, such as most Australian elections, electors are required to rank all candidates.
If a candidate receives a majority of first-preference votes (more people put them as number one than all the rest combined), then they are elected.
If no candidate gains a majority on first preferences, then the second-preference votes of the candidate who finished last on the first count are redistributed. This process is repeated until someone gets over 50 per cent.

So what's the problem with this? Well, if you vote for a party and that party gets the majority, then your second and third choices will not be counted. But if your first choice is for a minority party such as The Green Party or BNP, and of course they don't get the majority, then your second and third choices DO get counted until someone reaches 50% of the vote. Some people (like the Tories) don't like this idea because it means that it gives lesser parties a chance. In some respects I can see this side of the argument. No rational person could possibly want to see the racist BNP in power. But at least it is slightly less unfair than the current system, First Past The Post.

What is FPTP?

FPTP, put in as simple terms as I can, means that voters vote for candidates in their constituencies by putting an X net to the name of the candidate they would like to have as their local MP. Once an MP is elected for that seat, all the other votes in that constituency count for nothing. In other words, if you voted for a Labour candidate and the Tory candidate won that seat, your vote would not count towards anything else. An example, you say? In the 1997 election, the victorious Labour Party gained 43.2% of the total votes cast and won 63.6% of seats at Westminster. The combined number of votes for the Tory and Liberal Democrats represented 47.5% of the total votes (nearly 4% more than Labour) yet between them they got 32.1% of the seats available at Westminster.

In the 2001 election, Labour got 43% of the total popular vote whereas all the other parties got 57% - yet Labour maintained its very powerful position in Parliament with 413 MP's out of 659. The same trend was seen with the 2005 election result.

It can be claimed that such a percentage of votes should not have given Labour such large Parliamentary majorities – but the workings of the FPTP system allows for just such an occurrence. In fact, no government since 1935 has had a majority of public support as expressed through votes cast at a national election.

In Proportional Representation each vote would count towards a national total. The party with the majority would be in power, and each party would then be given an appropriate number of seats in the House of Commons. But this system is seen as somewhat 'fringe' and 'loony'. Like most things that sound like logical common sense to me.

I'll be voting for AV come the 5th if only to get rid of FPTP. It won't be my first choice, but my first choice isn't even on the ballot.

I think the best idea would be to do what the Aussies do and fine people who don't vote. Hit all these people who don't believe they can make a difference where it truly hurts - the wallet. And then use the fines to finance our national deficit. Oh, and here's an idea whose time has come - the Robin Hood Tax.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Kan U Spel? Part Too

Here I am again! Twice in one evening! Can you handle it?

One of the things I have done on this blog more than once is to complain about the English language. To be more specific, the way in which some people see fit to use it.

Yes, it's that time again where Jeff sees fit to correct a few people for whom spelling and punctuation and grammar were just loose guidelines, almost suggestions if you will.

Let's start with one of my personal top hates, and that is the whole "Your/You're" thing.

Your is a possessive. "It is your blanket. It belongs to you. It's yours."

You're is a contraction of "you are" as in "You're on that blanket again. Get the hell off it. You're seriously irritating me."

Then we move on to There/Their/They're.

There has two uses:
      1) to mean a place
For example: The State Penitentiary is over there.

      2) with the verb "to be" (in phrases like "there is", "there are" etc)
For example:There are 268 inmates in the State Penitentiary.

Their  means "belonging to them".
For example: Their car is a hunk of junk.

They're is a contraction of "they are".
For example: They're getting out of the State Pen in three years.

I also get annoyed by  "Its/It's".
It's"  is short for "it is".  As in  "It's really aggravating when people cannot write correctly".
"Its"  is a possessive, as in "I really hated that car, its engine was a piece of poo."

I also get really annoyed when people write "could of"  when what they really mean is "could have". I think this begins at school. Traditionally this gets shortened to "could've" which when spoken sounds like "could of". But any rational person knows that when you look at it, there's no possible way "could of"  can make any kind of literal sense.

Another one that raises my hackles is the contraction of "a" and  "lot". I read stuff like that all the time.  "I've done alot today." It's A LOT. Not ALOT. Alot is not a word. Neither is Nevermind.   Nevermind  is an album by Nirvana.  Never Mind The Bollocks  is an album by the Sex Pistols.

And if you are on Facebook and want to put a word in your status update that you are unsure of how to spell, look it up!! There are tons of dictionaries online, any one of which will tell you that the correct way to describe your girlfriend is GORGEOUS, not GORGUESS  or GORGOUSE.

Gah, don't they teach 'em anything in school these days?

Bloc Party

I just recently came across the term "Black Bloc". It sounds like some sort of terrorist organization, does it not? Well, it isn't. It's really just a synonym for "politically motivated vandal".

Apparently all one has to do in order to be part of this here Black Bloc thingamajig is to turn up at a demonstration or protest march dressed in black from head to foot, with a ski mask or bandanna covering your face and preferably carrying some sort of stick or truncheon. Oh, and it kinda helps if you have a strong desire to hit things. Or people.

Recently here in the UK we have had some demos of a peaceful nature being infiltrated by these asswipes, such as the blockade of Fortnum & Mason (where the Royals do their weekly shop and hampers cost £25k apiece) at the recent march by UK Uncut. UK Uncut were protesting against Fortnum & Mason over the tax dodge of over £40 million by its owners Whittington Investments which have a 54% stake in Associated British Foods who produce Ryvita, Kingsmill and others and own Primark.

These Black Bloc types swagger in, gatecrashing the party as it were, reduce the whole thing to a smash-n-grab and get entirely too much media exposure, and make everyone not involved in the protest think that all the participants are violent morons. Mayor of London and hair model Boris Johnson blamed UK Uncut for the violence, claiming that activists "stormed that building, terrified the staff, upset the customers and caused tens of thousands of pounds worth of damage".
Seems every inch the well-informed type, don't he?

Trouble is this kind of behaviour is somewhat tolerated by some factions of the left wing in the UK, in spite of the bad rep it gives to more peaceful forms of civil disobedience. And the longer they overlook it, the more it seems like they're almost encouraging it. It is ridiculous to tolerate violence just because those who commit it say they are on your side.

And you see, this is where the real problem lies. Because the techniques of Black Bloccers (sp?) are often imitated by undercover police infiltrators who are intent on criminalising legitimate forms of protest and in the process, destroying any sympathy towards the protesters that the general public might have.  Since all members conceal their identities, it is harder to recognize infiltrators. Allegations first surfaced after several demonstrations. At the 2001 G8 summit in Genoa, amongst the many complaints about the police there was mention of video footage in which "men in black were seen getting out of police vans near protest marches." In August 2007, Quebec police admitted that "their officers disguised themselves as demonstrators." On these occasions, some were identified by genuine protesters because of their police-issue footwear.

Yes, it's definitely a block of black.

UK Uncut has been surprisingly silent on the whole Fortnum & Mason outrage. They should have swiftly silenced detractors to their cause by quickly speaking out against the Black Bloc, but they have yet to do so. Unfortunately that gives the government a brilliant excuse to curtail 'violent' protests and silence legitimate activists. Pretty soon the only way for an intelligent motivated supporter of social justice to express themselves will be to harrumph loudly or biff themselves or each other over the head with a copy of The Grauniad.

So in summary, if you want to be taken seriously as an activist group, do not tolerate the Black Bloc chaps and chappesses, because all they are out to do is have a bit of a punch-up and ruin your reputation in the process. And to all you wannabe anarchist Black bloccers out there -- go to a football match instead. And Boris - get a decent haircut for Chrissakes, you're enough of a joke as it is.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

100 Records That Shook The World, # 45


Black Sabbath

Back when I was at school in 1979/1980 I was placed in the 'top set' for French. Because of this I was also 'allowed' to study German. The teacher for this subject was a great burly man with a big frizz of wiry salt-and-pepper hair named John Collier. He was also a sculptor and ran the school photography club, which to my very great regret I never joined. I remember one lesson where he had wanted us to be so steeped in the German culture he wanted to hold a wine-tasting session during one of the classes, with wines from the Mosel and Rhine valleys. We duly coughed up our two quid and one lesson he let us sample little nips of these wines. Great news for me, because other people who didn't want to try the wine or didn't like it gave their samples to me. What a great afternoon that was.
Mr. Collier also thought it might be a good idea for us to learn the words of a German pop song, and so he chose one by the band Cindy & Bert  entitled "Aber Am Abend (da spielt der Zigeuner)". It was a typically cheesy slice of 70s Euro-crap, and it came as no surprise to learn that Cindy & Bert had been Eurovision contestants. How odd, then to find out that these Euro-cheese exponents had also recorded their own version of Black Sabbath's "Paranoid", re-titled "Der Hund von Baskerville". Wanna hear this masterpiece? Of course you do. Happy to oblige.

Of course this version isn't nearly as cool a slice of rip-snortin' protopunk as the original by Ozzy and the lads. A song that has been placed on too many "greatest Rock song/metal song/guitar song/hard rock song ever" to name, and one that has been re-recorded by Ozzy several times with different lineups of his band. A song that is to the country of Finland what Stairway to Heaven is to Great Britain, and Sweet Home Alabama is to, well, Alabama really. And pretty much the rest of "the Southland" (dammit, I hate that phrase. I mean, whenever it gets used, it's usually a Southerner (by which I mean somebody from the American South) using it, so why the addition of the suffix -land is necessary I cannot imagine. We know what the hell you're referring to, Jethro). But I digress.
I was talking about Finland. Yes, apparently at any given gig by any band in Finland, no matter what style of music the artist plays, the crowd will inevitably include one twat, I mean punter who will shout at some point "Soittakaa Paranoid!"  which means "I say chaps,sorry to interrupt but would you mind awfully playing Paranoid for me. Ta ever so." Gotta love them kooky Finns.


Paranoid of course comes from Sabbath's second album, also titled Paranoid, an album that has always seemed to me to have one of the strangest examples of cover artwork ever. Apparently the weirdly distorted photo of an oddly dressed sword-wielding bearded guy in a helmet jumping out from behind a tree is meant to represent a "war pig", as in the song War Pigs. To me it's just a weirdly distorted photo of an oddly dressed sword-wielding bearded guy in a helmet jumping out from behind a tree. But that's just me.

The story of how the song came about is one of those chance occurrences that happen from time to time. The band went into the studio after the release of Black Sabbath in early 1970 to record their second album, and had just about completed  when at the last minute, as record companies are apt to do from time to time, Vertigo Records requested a single.
As drummer Bill Ward explains: "We didn't have enough songs for the album, and Tony [Iommi] just played the "Paranoid" guitar lick and that was it. It took twenty, twenty-five minutes from top to bottom."


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Brain Droppings

Here is a compilation of my recent musings on Facebook, and elsewhere.

  • 50 years ago today, they put a man into space. Yet we are still without hovercars and teleport belts. Hurry up, science.

  • Fashion tip: wearing a trilby will not turn you into Jason Mraz. Thankfully.

  • Note to Zoe Ball: you are not nearly peppy enough. Try a double espresso.

  • If it gets any more intense in here, I might just poop my pants.

  • Boy, the excitement level here is at fever pitch. Time to kick it up a notch, to a frenzy.

  • Instructions to Nascar driver: keep turning left.

  • I have only one thing to say. "Ooooh".

  • The more crap you put up with, the more crap you are going to get.

  • RIP Sidney Lumet.

  • who needs biscuits?...

  • Well, duh...

  • Total nutball.

  • Why has the word 'monosyllabic' got five syllables?

Make of them what you will.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Cynical, Me?

I was just thinking it was time for a good old Jeff rant again, but I was racking my brains - what is it that riles me up recently? Well, I'll tell ya what it is. It's the fact that I have a job I like and can do that isn't too taxing and that gives me the ability to have a life. I like that.

"Well, what's so bad about that, Jeff?" I hear you cry. "Sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me. What are you moaning about, you whiner?"

Well, you are right. It IS a pretty cool gig, I have to say. But the fact is, it's coming to a close. Finito Benito. Adios, amigos. Gone, and never called me mother. Done.

Yes, head office has decided that they can no longer afford to keep us open what with the current economic climate and the landlord jacking up the rent and all that shamozzle. That's what annoys me.

When our company signed the lease for our shop three years ago, there were some factors they did not count on.
Firstly, they did not know that within a 20-minute drive from our shop, there were not enough of our ideal demographic customers to support us. We live in a town that is picturesque and pretty and surrounded by countryside with lots of rich gentry and nouveau riche commuters. Or so you would think. At least, that's what Head Office was thinking. But within 20 minutes you have the big town of Ashford with its giant ASDA and giant Tesco and other giant stores. Plus you have the ignorance of people who have lived here all their lives and never given us a second glance. I can't tell you how many times I've answered the question "How long has this shop been here?" with "Three years", followed by a surprised look and a sound emanating from them not unlike Scooby-Doo... "Huuhh?". This question has now replaced "Are all these meals frozen?" as the most aggravating one customers ask. I am simply exhausted from answering it.

The company also knew when they signed the lease that they would be re-signing it this year. Trouble is, our landlord decided to jack up the rent so high that when they looked at how much we were making, all this new demographic info and did some adding up, they went..."Oh shit."

People come in the shop and when they learn of our imminent demise, they (a) assume the whole company is going tits-up, and (b) when told otherwise, say "can't something be done?" Well, too little too late I'm afraid, the deal is set in stone. June 4th is our last official day and we are less than pleased about it. Not to say cynical.
Yes, I'm afraid to say that while we are appreciative of people's sympathy, we are becoming a little jaded and tired of all the outpouring of grief. Yes folks, we are making sarky comments about you after you leave the shop.

I was also less than impressed with the way in which we were informed. Edward, the guy that founded the business, flew in to the shop one Monday morning while I was down at the bank. I was there for 20 minutes, tops, and by the time I got back he too was gone. I found out that he'd come in and told Tom, my boss, the reasons why etc, and then gone off on his hols to Mombasa. Well, thanks Ed. Don't let us stop you from enjoying your damn hols. And don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

The shop lies in a building that used to be the off-licence next to the Ye Olde Cellars pub. the entire building is now one of many owned by the Edmonds brothers, who seem intent on buying up the entire town piece by piece, redeveloping it and turning the whole damn place into a quaint strip mall of their own hellish devising. Let me tell you a little story.

When I worked in Threshers (as the off-licence became called), we went through a remodel in the year 1990. While we were being remodelled, the company (Whitbread, who also owned the pub and its outbuildings) turned one of the outbuildings, an old barn-type affair, into a shop unit for us to use during the interim. Once the remodel was complete and we were back in the original shop, which is now where I work at COOK (it is truly bizarre, by the way, to be working in the same exact building I worked in 20 years ago), the shop unit that we had occupied for those few months now stood empty. Fast forward to 2010 and the entire building and shop unit is entirely owned and its different units rented out by the landlords, the Edmonds brothers. They used to be pro cricketers. But their tactics are not what I would call cricket.

The shop unit when I got back to the UK was a cafe/tea room called Shelly's, and so it was until about a week ago. Because Shelly's closed on the Saturday evening, and by Sunday night it was empty of everything save the counter and a few chairs and tables. They vanished. When someone pointed this out to me last Tuesday, I went and looked for myself. As I was doing so, another shop owner in our building stood outside their shop and I said to them, "When did this happen?" He informed me that they'd gotten a notification of their rent increase and decided to pack up and go, adding as he did so that if his rent goes up too much he'd have to hit the road too.
On Friday I noticed the Brothers had tacked up a notice in the window that the place had been repossessed for 'non-payment of rent' and gave a phone number to call with 'any info'. Today, Monday, the painters and handymen are in there fixing new stuff up in there and one of them lets slip it's going to be 'an ice-cream parlour'.
Does that seem at all odd to you? The tenants ship out on a Sunday night and the following Monday a new business is going in there? Call me cynical, but given the current economic climate, I scarcely think that the streets of this town are teeming with people anxious to start an ice-cream business. It may just be the jaded me talking, but I would not be at all surprised to learn that the new owners of said purveyors of frozen cow's milk would be none other than the Brothers Grim themselves. All of which gets me to the next logical leap, where I ask myself the question - after we move out of the premises, (a) how long will the place remain empty? (b) what will the new business that goes in there be?, and (c) who will the new owners be?

Wait and see, won't we.

100 Records That Shook The World, # 46

Ladies Of The Canyon (LP)

Joni Mitchell

Ladies of the Canyon is Joni Mitchell's third album, released in 1970. Its title refers to Laurel Canyon, Los Angeles, a center of popular music culture in Los Angeles during the sixties. It features several of Mitchell's most noted songs, including "Big Yellow Taxi", "Woodstock" and "The Circle Game".

At this point, Joni's artistic vision was becoming more defined. Here she was drawing inspiration from the complexities of love, from what she observed of the Woodstock generation, and from celebrity status and what it all meant. Ladies Of The Canyon is the difficult third album, the one that saw her departing from her folk-club beginnings and leaning towards more sophisticated and poignant work, giving us a taster of what was to come in later LPs such as Court And Spark and The Hissing Of Summer Lawns. And here was that monster hit Big Yellow Taxi, which has become a classic, and has been covered countless times.
Joni said this about writing the song to journalist Alan McDougall in the early 1970s:
"I wrote 'Big Yellow Taxi' on my first trip to Hawaii. I took a taxi to the hotel and when I woke up the next morning, I threw back the curtains and saw these beautiful green mountains in the distance. Then, I looked down and there was a parking lot as far as the eye could see, and it broke my heart... this blight on paradise. That's when I sat down and wrote the song.”
The song is known for its environmental concern (from the lyrics "They paved paradise to put up a parking lot", "Hey farmer, farmer, put away that DDT now") and sentimental sound. The line, "Took all the trees, put 'em in a tree museum/And charged the people a dollar and a half just to see 'em" refers to Foster Botanical Garden in downtown Honolulu, which is a living museum of tropical plants, some rare and endangered.

In the song's final verse, the political gives way to the personal. Mitchell recounts the departure of her "old man" in the titular "big yellow taxi", which may refer to the old Metro Toronto Police patrol cars (Joni's Canadian, but of course you knew that - right?) that until 1986 were painted yellow. In many cover versions the departed one may be interpreted as variously a boyfriend, a husband, or a father. The literal interpretation is that he is walking out on the singer by taking a taxi; otherwise it is assumed he is being taken away by the authorities.

Here's Joni.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Driving In My Car

So last week I posed the question - in which Madness video do the Fun Boy Three (pictured) make a cameo appearance?

The answer is - THIS!
(They appear at 1:59, hitching a lift)

So now, this week's head-scratcher...

Suggs and Chas Smash of Madness released a one-off single as a tribute to their comic book hero Judge Dredd. What was the name of the song and under what name did the duo record?

Friday, April 8, 2011


This should be interesting. I am writing this because of an interesting post by my pal and fellow blogger Marissa Rapier from earlier today. The challenge in this was to name three heroes of the female variety - one a fictitious character, one a movie star, and the third a musician/rock star. The object of this, as in so many other Facebook notes, is to reveal some sort of something about yourself that people haven't already figured out for themselves, I guess. Deep stuff. So here goes. (By the way folks, this originated as a 'Facebook note' and I am just too consarned lazy to write anything original for t'blog this evening, so this'll have to suffice. Sue me.)

Fictitious Character: Well, first I have to think of books that I like, and of those, see if there are any female characters that I can identify with, which, being a guy, is kind of tricky, it has to be said. My favourite series of books is the Hitch Hiker's guide series by Douglas Adams, but the main female character in there is Trillian, who ends up being a time-travelling journo in Mostly Harmless who has Arthur Dent's child using a sperm bank, and although she was cute in the first book, is actually kind of a hateful character by the end of it all, so that rules her out. There's also Fenchurch from So Long And Thanks For All The Fish who is a rather wonderful character but she ends up disappearing into a parallel universe at the beginning of book 5 and is never heard from again, so that's a real downer. 
No, I think the female fictitious person I can identify with most is the wonderful Matilda Wormwood from Roald Dahl's Matilda, who is a bright, intelligent and resourceful girl who overcomes adversity (in the shape of her horrible family and nasty brute of a headmistress), discovers the power of telekinesis and helps Miss Honey get back the house that is rightfully hers, and ends up being adopted by Miss Honey at the end while her awful parents leave town for good. Matilda rocks!

Movie Star: Now then. I have much thinks about this tricky one. There are many female movie stars that I can appreciate, some for their obvious charms, some for their acting chops, and some for a bit of both. But a movie star that is somewhat of a hero to me? Hmmm. 'Tis a most perplexing mystery. 

There is nothing like a dame....
I think that even though there are a ton of them and the harder I think the more confused I get, I am going to have to go with my gut instinct and say Dame Helen Mirren. She has the classical training, the ability to play a variety of roles at different ages in her life, and she has been in some real classics such as The Long Good Friday, The Queen, Gosford Park,The Madness Of King George, Cal, The Comfort Of Strangers, Excalibur, O Lucky Man!  and of course Prime Suspect on t'telly. Plus, she's gorgeous but not 'Hollywood beautiful'. She's a real woman and a class act.

"Hi, I'm Patti and I'll break your nose, punk."

Musician/Rock Star: Well now. There are quite a few candidates for this one also. I think of all the different female recording artistes I like and they range from the likes of Kim Wilde and Pauline Black through to June Carter Cash and Beverly Sills, to Bjork and Kate Pierson of The B-52's. I probably will again go with my gut and say Patti Smith, the Godmother of Punk, the rock poetess, who's still out there and doing it and happens to be the same age as my mum. Go Patti!

Well, there ya go kiddies. Did you learn anything?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Well, Isn't That Special?

So my Musical Puzzler was correctly answered by my good friend, ex-boss/co-worker, blogging pal and all-round good egg Marissa "The Pride Of Kankakee" Rapier of the world-famous Marissology blog.

The question, just to refresh your memory, was this: "Whose romance was the inspiration for the Go-Go's song 'Our Lips Are Sealed'?" The answer was Jane Wiedlin and Terry Hall of The Specials, Fun Boy Three and The Colour Field.

Wiedlin had what she called a "short but dramatic romance" with Terry Hall of the Specials during their 1980 tour in England; Hall later sent her some lyrics prompted by their relationship, inspiring Wiedlin to write "Our Lips Are Sealed", a song on which Hall has co-writer credits.

Speaking of our Tezza, here's the next question.

Terry Hall and his bandmates Lynval Golding and Neville Staples from The Specials and Fun Boy Three appeared in a cameo role in which video by Madness?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A New Low

Okay, here we go with another good old fashioned Jeff-style ramblin' rant. I was exposed the other day to something which I suppose the whole of America already knows about but that we here in the British Isles have only recently become aware of.

Rebecca Black, that 13-year-old who smiles way too much, and that awful 'Friday' song. Is it me or are we going to have children springing from their mother's wombs with pop songs on their lips soon?

Sorry, but when I was 13, girls did NOT look like this.

I realise I am preaching to the choir here. I know the song has been universally panned. One website deemed it the worst song ever. Black, in an interview with Good Morning America, said she cried when she heard that, along with other nasty comments. So what have people been saying? "Truly, undeniably awful."

URLesque: "This song by Rebecca Black has to be the worst song ever written, composed, sung out loud or turned into a video."

SF Gate: "what may be the ultimate combination of horrible lyrics, horrible songwriting, horrible auto-tuning (apparently to hide horrible singing) ... horrible dancing and horrible horribleness. It's so horrible, people are wondering whether the production is real or if it's an elaborate joke."

Apparently Black has been singing for a long time, having been a member of Celebration USA since 2008. They are a patriotic vocal group, apparently. Eww.

But get this! This 13 year old girl whose video has had 17 million views on Yoot Oob and whose single has only been available since Tuesday and is already sitting pretty on the iTunes chart at #31 between Enrique 'Bailamos' Iglesias and the Zac 'nobody's heard of us' Brown Band, doesn't have a record deal.

That's right. She recorded the single at an LA vanity record label and made the video for a paltry $4,000. There is hope for us yet, us closet rock stars.

Taking a closer look at the lyrics to this ode to the joys of driving around with one's chums and having a mighty jolly whizzy time on the weekend, we find we are suddenly moved to go to the bathroom or listen to a solid hour of grime* and dubstep*. Here they are for you to enjoy.

(Yeah, Ah-Ah-Ah-Ah-Ah-Ark) (Note: Ark is a reference to Ark Music Factory, where she recorded her song and video.)
Oo-ooh-ooh, hoo yeah, yeah
Yeah, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah

[Rebecca Black - Verse 1]

7am, waking up in the morning
Gotta be fresh, gotta go downstairs
Gotta have my bowl, gotta have cereal
Seein' everything, the time is goin'
Tickin' on and on, everybody's rushin'
Gotta get down to the bus stop
Gotta catch my bus, I see my friends (My friends)

Kickin' in the front seat
Sittin' in the back seat
Gotta make my mind up
Which seat can I take?

It's Friday, Friday
Gotta get down on Friday
Everybody's lookin' forward to the weekend, weekend
Friday, Friday
Gettin' down on Friday
Everybody's lookin' forward to the weekend

Partyin', partyin' (Yeah)
Partyin', partyin' (Yeah)
Fun, fun, fun, fun
Lookin' forward to the weekend

[Rebecca Black - Verse 2]

7:45, we're drivin' on the highway
Cruisin' so fast, I want time to fly
Fun, fun, think about fun
You know what it is
I got this, you got this
My friend is by my right
I got this, you got this
Now you know it

Kickin' in the front seat
Sittin' in the back seat
Gotta make my mind up
Which seat can I take?


It's Friday, Friday
Gotta get down on Friday
Everybody's lookin' forward to the weekend, weekend
Friday, Friday
[ Lyrics from: ]
Gettin' down on Friday
Everybody's lookin' forward to the weekend

Partyin', partyin' (Yeah)
Partyin', partyin' (Yeah)
Fun, fun, fun, fun
Lookin' forward to the weekend


Yesterday was Thursday, Thursday
Today i-is Friday, Friday (Partyin')
We-we-we so excited
We so excited
We gonna have a ball today

Tomorrow is Saturday
And Sunday comes after... wards
I don't want this weekend to end

[Rap Verse]

R-B, Rebecca Black
So chillin' in the front seat (In the front seat)
In the back seat (In the back seat)
I'm drivin', cruisin' (Yeah, yeah)
Fast lanes, switchin' lanes
Wit' a car up on my side (Woo! )
(C'mon) Passin' by is a school bus in front of me
Makes tick tock, tick tock, wanna scream
Check my time, it's Friday, it's a weekend
We gonna have fun, c'mon, c'mon, y'all


It's Friday, Friday
Gotta get down on Friday
Everybody's lookin' forward to the weekend, weekend
Friday, Friday
Gettin' down on Friday
Everybody's lookin' forward to the weekend

Partyin', partyin' (Yeah)
Partyin', partyin' (Yeah)
Fun, fun, fun, fun
Lookin' forward to the weekend

It's Friday, Friday
Gotta get down on Friday
Everybody's lookin' forward to the weekend, weekend
Friday, Friday
Gettin' down on Friday
Everybody's lookin' forward to the weekend

Partyin', partyin' (Yeah)
Partyin', partyin' (Yeah)
Fun, fun, fun, fun
Lookin' forward to the weekend

Exciting stuff, no? 

In a review for Rolling Stone, writer Matthew Perpetua described the vocals as having "a peculiar tonality that inadvertently highlights the absurdity of boilerplate pop lyrics," adding that the tone in the refrain "sounds unlike anything else in pop music." He noted the sound as being not entirely agreeable to listen to, but states that Black ultimately ends up "sounding like a distinct singer with an alluring sort of anti-charisma."

Kevin Rutherford, a columnist for Billboard magazine, wrote, "Black's video for 'Friday' is one of those rare occurrences where even the most seasoned critics of Internet culture don't know where to begin. From the singing straight out of Auto-Tuned hell to lyrics such as 'Tomorrow is Saturday / And Sunday comes afterwards / I don't want this weekend to end' and a hilariously bad rap about passing school buses, 'Friday' is something that simply must be seen and heard to be fully appreciated."

 Fellow teenage singer Miley Cyrus criticized Black, saying that "[i]t should be harder to be an artist. You shouldn't just be able to put a song on YouTube and go out on tour." Oh, Miley - are you afraid somebody's cutting in on your action?

Simon Cowell, though, in a surprise move, actually praised Black, saying, "I love her [and] the fact that she's gotten so much publicity. People are so upset about the song, but I think it's hysterical. [...] Anyone who can create this much controversy within a week, I want to meet. I love people like that." He then went on to advise her not to  "listen to anyone over the age of 18. I'm being deadly serious. Whatever she's done has worked. Whether you like her or not, she's the most talked-about artist in America right now. Nobody over the age of 18 should understand her or like her. So she should just do it her way."  He observed that "any song to do with the weekend annoys you. It reminds me of 'Saturday Night'... It's what we call a 'hair-dryer song,' a song girls sing into their hair dryers as they're getting ready to go out. But the fact that it's making people so angry is brilliant."

All I can say is, I'm working on a sequel. Hey, if it's this easy, then my time surely has come! Maybe an ode to the joys of waking up on a Tuesday and getting ready for work, then hauling my ass down to the shop and putting in eight hours in a retail environment, which can be either fun and rewarding, or a soul-numbing siege from moment to moment. That'll be a fun pop song.

What's that ya say? You haven't heard it yet? You want me to post it on here? Sorry, people, it ain't gonna happen. Go over to the Youts-of-Today Toob and subject yourself to its horrors if you must. Have the painkillers and/or the scotch ready. You will thank me later.

*Grime is a genre of urban music that first emerged in Bow, East London, England in the early 2000s, primarily a development of UK garage, dancehall, and hip hop. Grime is typified by complex 2-step breakbeats, generally around 140 beats per minute and constructed from "different" sounds. Stylistically, grime takes from many genres including UK Garage, dancehall and hip hop. The lyrics and music combine futuristic electronic elements and dark, guttural bass lines.

Dubstep is a genre of electronic dance music that originated in South East London. Its overall sound has been described as "tightly coiled productions with overwhelming bass lines and reverberant drum patterns, clipped samples, and occasional vocals". Dubstep rhythms are usually syncopated, and often shuffled or incorporating tuplets. The tempo is nearly always in the range of 138-142bpm.

So, in other words, stuff that will give you a raging migraine.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...