Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Welcome to the machine

I've just watched a programme about the progress of technology with Simon Armitage that was on BBC4 last night. At the start of the programme he went into a school and asked them to tip out all of their gadgets onto their desks. Isn't it easy being a kid these days? With mobile phone technology there's now no more need to pop down to the phone box at the end of the street with a stack of 5 pence pieces if you wanted to speak to the girl you wanted to ask to the school disco.That's not counting the limitless possibilities of internet instant messaging.
When I was at my last days at school the first 'brick' mobiles were appearing. How we laughed, who'd want one of those? That was an opinion I held up until as recently as 2000 when I finally relented and got a mobile, even that purchase was more out of necessity.

I've been toying with the idea of an iPhone recently, but then do I really need an iPhone? Yes, they look like fun, but there's a scores of features on the mobile I've got now that I never use like a radio, video calls, organisers, a calculator and video capture. I suppose the internet on the phone is handy for when I'm away but I very rarely use it because a) I'm on holiday and much as I love you I like to have a break, and b) it's bloody expensive on pay-as-you-go. Besides, knowing my luck, I'd buy the iPhone the very minute they were bringing one out that was better. Who was it who said they'd buy a new telly if they stopped inventing new ones?

When I was at school the only piece of technology I owned was a 14" colour portable telly and my sister's cast-off Walkman. She was a rather 'troubled' teenager who ended up under a shrink so my parents were a bit more generous with her when it came to dishing out presents. In fact, I don't recall owning my 'own' Walkman until I started earning my own money delivering papers.
I loved the Walkman and must have got through about half a dozen of them, including those with a fairly useless graphic equaliser on the side. Can you imagine my joy at the advent of the CD Walkman? Heavy on batteries but you could instantly go back to the beginning of Megadeth's Symphony of Destruction the minute it had finished without all that horrid rewinding killing your batteries.
Now with the iPod I can listen to my entire record collection wherever I go. I don't, of course, because I'm too lazy to rip CDs into the bloody thing. Most of the music on there is stuff I've downloaded, hence the weird look of that Top 25 Most Played post. The things I listen to most on the iPod are podcasts when I'm either doing my chores or out walking. I've got the second biggest iPod available, storage-wise, and I don't think it's a quarter full.

The most useless gadget I've got is a personal DAB radio. It's crap. Don't buy one.

I'm not buying any more technology, not until they give us those hover boots they've been promising us anyway. As the campaign slogan says in Muriel's Wedding "You can't stop progress!"

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

In with a bullet at number twelve, it's Petula Clark

I've heard it said before that the Top 25 Most Played on your iPod is a true reflection of your musical taste. Well, here goes, wish me luck....

  1. The Go! Team - My World. Brighton-based hip-hop-rock-dance crossover outfit have a go at long-forgotten kiddies' TV theme music. Rather good.

  2. Focus - House of the King. Dutch prog nutjobs provide theme music for Saxondale. Excellent.

  3. Arctic Monkeys - I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor. Only decent thing they've ever done.

  4. Hard- Fi - Living for the Weekend. A shining example of one of my 'obsession songs'. Don't think I want to hear it again for a while. Especially with lyrics like "Oh shit, my clothes are all counterfeit."

  5. Sailor - A Glass of Champagne. Look, I like it. Okay?

  6. Amy MacDonald - Mr Rock 'n' Roll. Jesus, how did that get in there? The Argos KT Tunstall, no, hang on, that was Sandi Thom. Okay, the Primark KT Tunstall.

  7. Genesis - ABACAB. I like Genesis, and what are you going to do about it?

  8. Clout - Substitute. Another 'obsession song'. Thing is, the only version of it on iTunes is a re-recording, so it's not even the original with the blokes playing all the instruments.

  9. Lindisfarne - Lady Eleanor. See Monday's post. It's about a "belly-dancing beauty with a power-driven saw".

  10. Tool - Stinkfist. Fuck yeah! The Californian prog-metal miserabelists stock opening gambit at a live show.

  11. The Raconteurs - Salute Your Solution. Haven't heard that in ages. Another 'obsession song'.

  12. Petula Clark - Colour My World. Saw on a DFS ad, liked, downloaded. Tony Hatch in full effect.

  13. Billy Ocean - Love Really Hurts. No wedding's complete without this. Red Light Spells Danger is nearly as good too.

  14. Heart- Barracuda. Inspired to download by Guitar Hero. Zeppelinesque rock workout about music industry creeps. Top.

  15. Wolfmother - Woman. Imagine if Deep Purple were Australian and still capable of making good records.

  16. Bobby Goldsboro - Summer (The First Time). I'm thoroughly fed up of hearing this paen to cherry-popping.

  17. CSS - Let's Make Love and Listen to Death from Above. I loved this a couple of years ago. Funky shagging song by the Brazilian crossover dance act.

  18. Elbow - Newborn. Worth it just for elongated section at the end. Brilliant when played live, especially the way it suddenly stops.

  19. The Killers - When You Were Young. I normally hate The Killers (I've got enough Simple Minds' records without this lot making weak facsimiles), but this is the only song I've ever got 100% on Guitar Hero. Probably because there's not much guitar...

  20. Nick Nicely - Hilly Fields. I blogged about this a while back.

  21. Kirsty MacColl - They Don't Know. I don't need to explain this, surely.

  22. Baccara - Yes, Sir, I Can Boogie. Look, I can explain...

  23. Feeder - Feeling a Moment. I'm not normally keen on these Foo Fighters copyists, but this reminds me of something I'm not going into here.

  24. Fleet Foxes - White Winter Hymnal. Not for listening to in the summer, but just the ticket as the days get shorter and darker.

  25. Half Man Half Biscuit - Trumpton Riots. Elevaaaaaaaaaaate!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I'm an eclectic bastard, aren't I, readers?

I've put You Tube links on to tall those tracks and it took me ages, so you'd better look at some of them. I'll quite understand if there are no takers foe Bobby Goldsboro though.

Monday, 21 September 2009

The music grabs me, spins me around and round

I'm becoming obsessed with this bloody song. I bought one of those crappy 80s compilation CDs to play at work and this was on it. I have these little song obsessions every now and again. The other week it was Lindisfarne's Lady Eleanor, a few weeks before that Don Partridge's Rosie. I'll go mad on it for about a week and then forget it, only to be reminded of it again when I play The 25 Most Played playlist on my iPod.
Twilight Cafe reminds me of early Simple Minds (guitars and synths share the limelight with a strong bassline) and it's obviously trading on that whole Echo Beach I've-got-a-shit-job-but-I-go-somewhere-after-work-to-let-my-hair-down-with-like-minded-folk vibe. What a shame she doesn't sound all that happy about it.
My obsession has led me to found out more about Ms Fassbender. Unfortunately she hanged herself in 1991 leaving three daughters. What a sorry end to the tale. She looks so happy on this clip too.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Two men called George

Via the Word magazine weekly mailout comes this link for an excellent blog. I love a bit of George and Lynne. They're so liberated, aren't they? We never 'took' The Sun in our house, mother would have thought it too common* and Dad had The Express. Dad had The Express from the minute he started work in the late 40s up until the day he died in 2003 - that's right, he was lying on his hospital deathbed and we still took him an Express.

My country-dwelling aunt and uncle had The Sun though, so it was always a treat going to their house as, for a young lad, The Sun was manna from Heaven. Not only did you have to contend with top-heavy Page 3 'lovelies' but there was also the joy that was George and Lynne. When I was that age George and Lynne offered a skewed peep into what it was like to be an adult. George and Lynne gave this wonderful impression that childless adults just lazed around in bed all day watching television**. And Lynne ALWAYS had her norks out with a pair of see-through panties on (even though, to my disappointment, only the back was see through). Their conversation was always about some builder who'd wolf-whistled Lynne or George making some double entendre. You just knew that immediately afterwards they were going to have the best sex ever.
How disappointed and disillusioned was I to become with adult life?

Dad's Express only offered the charms of The Gambols. The Gambols were Terry and June to George and Lynne's Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin. The Gambols were George and Gaye, a happily married, middle-aged, childless couple. Their strips usually revolved around anecdotes that George would tell Gaye after a day at work (of course Gaye didn't work, what are you? Nuts?), a misunderstanding Gaye would have with a shopworker, or one of George's golfing mishaps. The only time The Gambols got a little bit sexy was when they were getting ready to go out - no doubt to a fucking dinner party - and you'd see George in his vest and pants (large, white Y-fronts) while Gaye would be wearing stockings and suspenders. But not in a sexy way. It was in a way that tells you the artist hadn't come to terms with the invention of tights (pantyhose for any Americans looking in).

The summer would be livened up by having their niece and nephew, Flivver and Miggy to stay. 'Hilarity' would ensue on a daily basis with those two little sods. By they way, have you ever come across anyone called either Flivver or Miggy? No, me neither.

I mean look at that picture at the top, that's a typical Gambols' drawing. George struggling with a grandfather clock bought at an auction while Gaye excitedly follows him. Don't you just know that was a bad investment?

I'd love to kick George Gambol in the bollocks in front of his missus for not being George and Lynne. The pair of bastards.
*Perversely, she'd buy it on Grand National day because 'it had a list of runners and riders.' Like they didn't in any other newspaper.
**I hate watching telly, and eating, in bed though, as an adult.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Deep joy

I've been thinking about Professor Stanley Unwin today, I don't know why, I just have. I can't think about him these days without also being reminded of something a colleague said when the news of Unwin's death was announced on the TV at work: "Thank fuck for that, I could never stand that old c**t." Which I always thought was a terrible thing to say, not only because he was being deeply disrespectful to someone who'd just died, but also because I believe that if Unwin doesn't even raise the briefest of smiles with you then you're a pretty humourless individual (that's not to say I can tell people what's funny and what's not).

Unwin always reminds me of two people who loomed large in my life when I was smaller. They were both childless but have a love of kids and loved to share little songs and stories with us. I reckon a lot of it had to do with the fact that they weren't parents themselves and didn't mind making a tit of themselves if it got a laugh out of a child. My dad, for instance, went to work, came home, had his tea, washed-up and then dropped off to sleep in front of the telly. Every night. That's not to say he was a bad parent, as he quite plainly wasn't, it's just that it was his job to provide for the kids, and be with them at weekends or on holiday.

My dad's brother, Uncle Jim was a man who spent his whole life living with our grandmother. Whenever you went he had a fresh Jane or Andy Capp book for us to look at, could knock out a tune on a concertina and would sing us songs, his favourite being one about snot and bogey pasties, exactly the sort of thing kids love. The one line I can remember went "You can have the black ones, 'cos I like the green ones." Brilliant!
As recently as the mid-70s I remember going to their house and having to use an outside loo. This was always fraught with danger as it was a home to many large spiders. Uncle Jim always came good though because to take your mind off the spiders he's let you take his lantern with a flashing beacon on top to light your way. The excitement of a flashing beacon was too much to bear for this 6 year-old.

The other guy was my mum's butcher. You'd go into his shop on a Saturday morning - trying to avoid the carcasses of dead animals which were dripping blood all over the sawdust-covered floor - and the first thing he'd do would be to shout at his wife to go and fetch the biscuit tin. Biscuits were duly handed out - usually a malted milk or a sport biscuit - then he'd launch into any one of a hundred songs. Particular favourites were There Was and Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, Susannah's a Silly Old Sow and one which told the tale of a woman who took a pig to market and couldn't get it over a stile. She took a stick to the pig to make it go over the stile, but the stick, unbelievably, wouldn't behave itself, so it went "Stick, stick, beat pig to get over the stile/Fire, fire burn stick to beat pig to get over the stile/Water, water, quench fire to burn stick to beat pig to get over the stile" It continued ad nauseum until the exact moment my mum's meat was cut, bagged up and paid for. Perfect timing.

Anyway, enough of my useless and uninteresting childhood reminiscences, here's some classic Unwin. You Tube's disappointingly light on Unwinese, but fact fans, clip one contains an actor who was born on the same street as me. That's right, I was born at home, there'll be a blue plaque on that house one day.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Jordan: The Comeback

I woke up this morning and thought that I'd dreamt that I'd read in yesterday's Daily Star that Katie Price had said "Rape is a subject very close to my heart." Turns out I hadn't dreamt it.