Sunday, 27 June 2010

Littlejohn - His Struggle

With his customary subtle touch, Daily Mail columnist Richard Littlejohn has chosen to put forward his feelings this morning on England’s capitulation in the World Cup.

“Thank Heaven The Few didn't defend as badly as England's footballers in Bloemfontein yesterday afternoon, otherwise we'd all be speaking German,” says Littlejohn taking the unusual option of comparing an aerial military battle that cost hundreds of lives with a game of football played by millionaires.

You can’t help but think that Littlejohn has planned this article ever since the USA topped England’s group, putting Germany, Argentina and Spain as likely foes in England’s path to World Cup glory.

If England had beaten Germany yesterday, no doubt the Littlejohn typewriter would have been preparing sentences like

Thank Heaven The Falklands Task Force didn't defend as badly as England's footballers yesterday afternoon, otherwise we’d have lost possession of some barely populated scrubland in the South Atlantic and Thatcher might have lost in 83.

A victory over “the Argies” as Littlejohn still calls them would no doubt have led to something about the Armada and everyone north of Calais going through the unbearable hell of speaking Spanish. Ironic, of course, that Littlejohn has taken the option of using WW2 imagery to talk about football seeing as he writes for a paper that famously thought Hitler was the bee’s knees. The rest of the article is typical Littlejohn, using the flimsy pretext of sharing in England fans disappointment to inform Mail readers of his views on lesbianism, the French and the Labour Party.

Basically, it’s not hard to imagine there’s a Littlejohn Column Generator at work. Type in a sentence about a current affairs event, punch it in and the LCG does the rest sprinkling Littlejohn’s clunking prose with lashings of bigotry.

Still, he is right on one thing, England were several shades of shit yesterday. Hopefully we’ve seen the last of Capello, Terry, Lampard, and co. Golden Generation? A Golden Shower more like. Except the only ones getting pissed on were the fans.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

A Very Short Story What I Just Wrote

NOTE: A first draft. Trying to come up with something of 500 words or so for a competition. Feedback welcome. Especially the MBV/JaMC variety.

My Pocket Bible Is On Fire

Many are the ways in which this tale will be written. I want to recall it perfectly, write it purely as I see it from the distance of the sole hour that has passed since the occurrence. For, despite the warnings, already I imagine the interpretations taking place, the calculated Chinese whisper passing from powerful ears to weak ones.

At three minutes past noon today I went to a cash machine a few yards from my office. In error I asked for a receipt. There was a queue so I waited till it came lest others discover the extent of my poverty.

I bought a cheese and onion roll from a nearby baker’s shop.

Opposite the baker’s there is a pub that sells cheap beer all day and cheap beer all night. Outside there were the usual crowd of refugees from the world of work. There’s a bench a few yards up from the pub where I like to sit with my lunch if the weather’s not too bad. I took a seat and opened up the paper bag from the baker’s. A pigeon heard the tiny crackle of bag and landed close to my feet.

The pigeon looked at me. I thought about shooing him.

And then it happens.

I knew it wasn’t just happening to me because of all the crashing cars around me, the dropped beers and stumbling women, the way that people clutched their heads to listen closer to the voice, to protect themselves from the sudden madness.

A voice, a voice like none heard yet in the sane world, spoke in all the heads on Earth.

I am the Creator.

I made you and I can unmake you. Abandon your churches, mosques and temples. Destroy your banks. Eden exists. It is all around you. Your beliefs are confirmed but do not become complacent for your rituals disappoint me. Put down your weapons and feed each other. Abandon your wealth as you would your worries for the two are one. The next time I speak will be the last.

I heard the church on the hill at the top of the town smash, we saw the smoke rise from here and turned as one by one, churches and banks fell into dust. I felt the coins in my pocket become hot and burn through the lining, falling to the ground and melting into nothingness.

As I speak, the televisions are beginning to crackle back into life silent. I can hear sirens and gunfire. The sky has emptied of clouds and the streets are filled with wondrous, upturned heads. A man on the radio is crying. There is talk of rioting in Rome.

I sit and watch and wait for something to happen.

A pigeon nibbles at the dropped roll by my feet.

My Top Favourite 350 songs of all time. #340

Hot Chip – Playboy

A lot of people don’t like Hot Chip. Fair enough. I’m sure that it’s got something to do with them all going to that school that all pop stars seem to have gone to the last few years. Maybe it’s something to do with the singer being called Alexis. Alexis, for fuck’s sake.

Then there’s the fact they look like a Christian Union Depeche Mode covers band. A bit of classism coming in, I reckon. Fact is, the working class don’t produce bands any more. The equipment’s too expensive, it’s all kids called Giles and Harvey buying drum machines on their parents credit cards and spending their gap year in India sampling Sufi choirs or something.

I could have gone with their Blue Monday moment, Over and Over or the electro Housemartins (and I can’t be the only punter who’d be tempted by that on the menu) stylings of Slush but it’s Playboy that moves and grooves me.

Playboy. Which to me still sounds like Ghost Town by the Specials remixed by Arab Strap. There’s the asthmatic fairground melancholy of the former with the metronomic menace of the latter. There’s a dash of knowing wit about their middle class beats – “Blazin’ out Yo La Tengo hey yay, drivin round Putney with the top down hey yay...” which makes the whole thing worth a million of anything that Vampire Wankers* will ever come up with.

*Yep, it's the first thing I could think of calling them. Apart from the Preppy Wanker Showtime Band.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

My Top Favourite 350 songs of all time. #341

Down Down by Status Quo

I mean, seriously, how can you not love this song? For all the dreadful shit they released otherwise, this is dumbass genius. Even John Peel loved this song for christ’s sake. And in this video, Francis Rossi is basically Steve Martin in a wig. I was in the Butchers Arms in Canton a few months back and I heard a group of twenty ukulele players do this and it was still brilliant. I wish that last sentence doesn’t indicate my drunkenness but it was ace regardless of my booze intake that evening. And there’s not many songs you can say that about.

Play it. Play it loud. Put your snobbery and prejudice to one side. Put your thumbs in your pockets and shake it bitches.

Monday, 21 June 2010

My Top Favourite 350 songs of all time. #342 and #343

Two songs, one shared title. And though that should be all that connects a gloomy guitar-free indie band named after a powerful anaesthetic with one of the original boy bands, it isn’t.

Morphine’s "The Night" is something so utterly bereft of hope, a shuffling end-of-the-evening blues punctuated with a saxophone seemingly played by Lisa Simpson in the aftermath of discovering her parent’s death. The lyrics speak of the same American wilderness of Cormac McCarthy, a place “too dark to see the landmarks...unknown unlit world of old...the awful dark.” But this is no faux-barfly exercise in self-pity, this is an almost sexy declaration of weakness in the face of one’s personal demons – a sultry confident swagger underpins the whole thing.

Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons approach the night at a faster tempo but it’s still a dangerous place – a place where love is always at danger from someone or something else, perhaps the night itself. It's a completely different song but coming from the same direction, a place of inarticulate longing, fear and mistrust.

Despite the warnings it’s true that each time I hear the former, I want to go out and get drunk, and each time the latter I want to go out, get drunker still and do some dancing.

England Half Volley

“I used to want to plant bombs at the Last Night of the Proms”.

Billy Bragg said that. As apologies for no longer being a Marxist proto-revolutionary go, it’s quite a tender one. And while I still indulge in fantasies about stamping on George Osborne’s face, I admit that I’ve softened a little in my extreme views.

I’m still anti foxhunting. But these days it’s based more on my opposition to what other people consider sport rather than a kneejerk reaction to what posh people enjoy over the weekend. I can enjoy Last Night of the Proms, find myself touched by the ironic sight of Jerusalem being sung by people who own property portfolios rather than being merely convulsed in anger at the televised coverage of a roomful of young Conservatives waving Union Jacks.

So far, so mature.

However, Wimbledon still inspires something of the young would-be terrorist in me. Just the sight of Centre Court and all those braying wankers wants me to indulge in a spot of gentle machine-gunning. Wimbledon is one of those “blue-riband” events that we, the British public, apparently have to keep safe from Murdoch’s clutches. I’d swap it in a heartbeat for Premiership rugby or football. The people who go to Wimbledon are mainly middle-class wankers, people who have no interest in tennis the rest of the year.

Neither do I. But Wimbledon affords me the chance to indulge in one of my own favourite annual activities – the Cheering On of the British Hope Until The Semi-Final.

As soon as Tim Henman got to a semi-final, I would cheer his opponent. Nothing against Tim, who couldn’t help being born to a Retired Aircraft Carrier or some other such military man and his Laura Ashley automaton wife. I loved the annual strained anguish coming from Centre Court as Henman valiantly lost to someone better than him. Henman Hill was a delight to witness, a whole Golgotha of insufferable flag waving Young Conservatives, wallowing in the kind of misery that only watching someone posh playing badly at tennis can bring.

Millions of pounds are pumped into British tennis each year in the hope of producing our first Wimbledon champion since Princess Margaret won it in 1917 or something. The reason we’ll never win it is simple, OTHER COUNTRIES POSH PEOPLE ARE HUNGRIER FOR SPORTING SUCCESS THAN OUR POSH PEOPLE. Accept it.

Wimbledon is basically a Glastonbury of the Suburbs, a gathering of the privet-hedged, golf club member, stockbroker set. Their agonies have increased since the retirement of Tim Henman as British hopes lie mainly in the hands of a Scot, Andy Murray.

The discovery of Murray’s tennis skills as he deflected Thomas Hamilton’s bullets with a board rubber have passed into folklore, as has English tennis proficiency. There are no Englishmen in this year’s draw, an announcement which has upset the Express-reading colonels who make up most of the crowd.

But there hasn’t been an English male tennis player in any competition since the war. There have been lots of awfully decent Hugo’s, Guys and Nigels around but they weren’t tennis players. They were cannon fodder, the sporting equivalent of our brave young men sent out over the top in the final episode of Blackadder. But no tennis players. Tim Henman was ok but he never won the bloody thing. If you picked up a racquet for the first time tomorrow, you’d be as good as he ever was by the weekend.

In his excellent book England, Half English, Bragg bemoans the fact that it is the far right that are making the running in terms of celebrating Englishness. But it’s not all yobbos who spend their summer hurling European garden furniture at each other. It’s the Wimbledon set, it’s the BBC (who despite Cameron’s protestations that the BBC is some kind of Leninist kibbutz, still send squadrons of weathergirls to fucking Ascot each year), it’s the denizens of Henman Hill who sing God Save The Queen and tuck into strawberries, blissfully unaware that said fruit was probably picked by an underpaid Polish girl that very morning in Kent, the kind of person who they believe is ruining this country.

No, it’s time to paraphrase Betjeman. Come friendly bombs and fall on Wimbledon....

Come friendly bombs to Wimbledon!
It can't be won by Tim Henman
And Murray is no Englishman.
The World Cup's so much better.

Come, bombs and blow to smithereens
Those queuing in SW19,
And those who sell strawberries and cream,
For just under a tenner.

Mess up the mess of the LTA-
And the chief on quite ridiculous pay
Not a single champion since Virginia Wade
Nearly forty years.

And kill that man with double chin
Who'll always lose and never win,
The wild card ranked at 519 -
His best in years:

And smash the fans, sitting grinning
Who call his name out when he's winning
Like they've been there since the beginning
And not merely fickle fiends.

But spare the ballgirls and ballboys
Middle class angels in their poise;
Trying to ignore the orgasmic noise
Of the ladies second seed.

It's not their fault their parents dream
is to see their offspring on the screen
holding a towel for an Argentine
To mop his sponsored head

And talk of British hopes this year
Will once again be disappeared
Before the weekend rain appears
Like Fred Perry, the hopes are dead.

In straight sets filled with double faults
The Brits crash out on outer courts
And finally the nation's thoughts
Return to other things.

Come friendly bombs to Wimbledon!
Make Armageddon suburban
For if the covers come back on
Cliff Richard says he'll sing.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

My Top Favourite 350 songs of all time. #344

Captain Beefheart. A name to strike fear in the hearts and minds of the adventurous pop fan. I’d always presumed he would be a bit like Zappa, a self-satisfied riot of supposedly ironic bigotry and smug musical pastiches. So he wasn’t someone I set out to listen to. I’d see his records at the houses of people whose tastes I’d precociously learnt to automatically distrust. I’d shanted (passim), I would not be dining at the Heart of Beef.

Until one Saturday evening maybe twenty years ago, a blissfully early time of day for John Peel to be broadcasting. After some mumbled nonsense about the defensive frailties of Liverpool that afternoon, this extraordinary noise belched forth.

Like a field recording from some LSD-baked shack in the Ozarks, The Dust Blows Forward and the Dust Blows Back depicts random scenes from an episode of Little House On The Prairie directed by David Lynch. Sewing machines, grain silos and naked fishermen letting the cool wind get to their bollocks. There’s no musical backing, just the sound of Beefheart’s frazzled, grizzlish drawl warping over scratched vinyl.

Listen to this and it’s not hard to imagine a young Beck being both traumatised and inspired enough to plan similar manoeuvres one day himself.

The album it comes from, Trout Mask Replica, is one of those records that crops up in Critics 100 Albums to Hear Before You Die. It isn’t. It’s mostly unlistenable shit. This, though, is the shizzle.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

His Master's Vest

HMV have decided not to sell a range of T-shirts that declare that the wearer would rather anyone but England win the World Cup. It’s a sad day for pessimists. Apart from the fact that that particular T-shirt slogan is on a par with “I Hope Nick Griffin Is Not Elected Pope” and “Please Please Don’t Let The Beatles Reform” when it comes to announcing a fear of unlikely circumstances coming true, it seems that HMV have caved in to pressure from some unpleasant sounding pressure group called Campaign For An English Parliament.

The T-shirt was available in Scotland and Wales and comes hot on the heels of other such allegedly “anti-English” merchandise. For centuries in Wales, it’s been possible to buy all manner of goods emblazoned with the slogan “I Support Two Teams In Rugby. Wales and whoever’s playing England.” A few years back I was in Cardiff market with a Welsh friend of mine who decided to have a bit of fun with the bloke selling these things.

“Do you do T-shirts saying “I Support Two Teams In Cricket. England and whoever’s playing Pakistan?”

“No. That would be racist. This is just a bit of fun”

At the time our smugly liberal consciences were cleared with the joy of making someone make racism out to be a bit of fun. However, I’m not so sure I was right.

I won’t even begin to try and compare the low level of discomfort felt by someone English seeing such merchandise available with the effects of genuine racism. But there is a problem here. It’s important that we stamp out racism and racist language wherever we see or hear it, but at the same time we would appear to be in danger of eradicating one of the most exciting and enjoyable aspects of being a sports fan – namely rivalry and the “banter” that goes with it.

The chances are that many of the people who want anyone but England to win a football match are racists but it’s unlikely that they’re the majority. I’ve lived in Wales for nearly thirty years, and whilst it’s true that you’d be unwise to sing “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” in an Aberdare pub the evening of a Wales defeat to England, it’s also true that most Welsh people harbour anti-English sentiments only for the duration of a match.

If someone wants to wear an Anyone But England t-shirt, let them. Let them bang on about how England raped their country, plundered their natural resources, killed their king, stamped out their language, closed their mines, etc. Fuck it, let them. Chances are they’ll have got it out of their system by half time.

Predictably just about everyone in the Cardiff pub where I watched the England/USA game was cheering on USA, screeching with delight as Robert Green suffered the seconds he’ll most be remembered for. A few English fans took offence at this but there’s no point, it’s just sport. My Welsh friends quite often tell me it’s the casual racism of the England supporters that gets their goat, unaware of the ironies inherent in such generalisations. Or they’ll talk about the stupidity of seeing white flags in every window forgetting that 85% of Welshmen think it’s perfectly natural to wear the same clothes as everyone else on an international day.

I have never felt the urge to own an England flag or football shirt. I think I had my face painted once but both painter and myself were fucking wrecked at the time and ended up wandering around Carmarthen looking more like a pair of recently mauled mime artists than patriotic scoundrels.

Anyone But England isn’t a racist slogan. It’s not worth getting upset about. HMV, like Morrison’s before them, have let the idiots win. I quite like people wearing them, it makes me know who to avoid jumping up and down next to should the miracle of an England goal occur, it highlights the person in the room most likely to provoke a fight with me, the person most likely (should they have been born English) to join something as predictably right wing as the Campaign for English Democracy.

Your true fan doesn’t want any part of that, just enjoys the banter. And if I was secretly a bit pissed off at the pro-Algerian chanting coming from my neighbours last night, I’m sure he will have seen the funny side of me doing the haka in his back garden this morning.

Although, looking back, perhaps I should have kept my pants on in front of his kids.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Your Mother Should Know

The first thing I thought when I saw this was “well, who have I upset this time?” Cos, you know, this is a cut throat business. What was that Morrissey song? We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful. Well, if that’s the case and let me assure you that it is, then our enemies go way past hate. They come into your home. They come into your home and they do this.

But then, I didn’t get where I am today without attention to detail. I see the blood in the snow. I see the message. You know, Fuck You. Written in blood etc. I’m like, hey wow, you have my attention. But then, I see it. Written in, I mean, is it human shit? I hope it is because well, I’ll be honest I don’t have a preference when it comes to what species of faeces people plump for when autographing their work but somehow it seems worse to use animal shit for this.

Hey Species of Faeces. That’s cool. I’m mentoring this metal band right now. Their name sucks. Desert Pilgrim. You know, sounds a bit Islamic or something. Species of Faeces. That’s gross. Kids love gross.

Sorry, officer, you’re right, I’m digressing. Daddy. That was the last word of the message. Fuck you written in blood in upper case. And erm Daddy in shit in lower case. Which, you know, narrows it down in terms of suspects.

How many children do I have? Five. Yep, the Washington Pentagon. Yeah, they’re my kids. I made them, my wife gave birth to them for sure but I made them. My sperm. My sweat. My relentless coaching. All those singing lessons, music lessons. The gigs. The tours. Biggest band of the eighties. Eighty million sperm times five kids equals four hundred million albums. That’s what I always say to the journalists. You know. Yeah, write your little hack job on me. I’m the one playing golf with Mel Gibson this weekend.

Okay. Kid number one and my number one suspect is Kennedy. Yep. As in the president. You don’t know much about music do you? Kennedy Washington. Date of birth, erm. Hang on, this was well we released Jailbait No More in er 1984 when she was sixteen. So it’s something 1968. I’ll have to ask my people, I’m hopeless with birthdays.

Why do I think it was her? Don’t you watch television? I ruined her life. She said so on Oprah. I’m a control freak apparently. Apparently she didn’t want to spend her childhood touring the country playing shopping malls and making hit records and becoming incredibly rich. She says that. You know, no one bought her last album so it’s Daddy’s fault. She’s the one who went solo. Broke the band. Broke the family band. Broke all their fans hearts. But no. I was ambitious for my children, I wanted them to have the life I never did and so I destroyed her life.

Do you have any kids, officer? No? Want some? I can buy you one. I’m joking officer, I know what you’re thinking, look at this rich asshole up here in the hills thinks he can buy children. I mean, there was a time when, quite frankly, I could buy nuclear weapons there was that much cash about but now you got to be Madonna to purchase a kid to go with the stereo.

Last time I saw her? I’ve never met her.

Oh, Kennedy. Right, sorry. Well, this would be last Christmas. She popped by the house and she freaked out because I went to pour everyone a drink with the dinner and she’s like going crazy about the 12 steps and this and that. And I was like woah calm down, chill out. It’s Christmas for Christ’s sake. And then she goes on about the time we did a live Christmas special for MTV in front of the fire, singing disco versions of all the classic Christmas songs despite the fact that their grandmother had died that very morning. Kids don’t understand contractual obligations. They understand having fucking limos and not having to go to regular school and having Michael J Fox come round to hang out at weekends but they don’t understand 150 million viewers being disappointed just cos of some family bereavement.

Then well, there’s Jefferson and Lincoln, the twins. Could they have done it? Yeah, I suppose so but it would have been a team effort. I can imagine Lincoln curling one out on the lawn but he’s thick as shit. Could he spell Daddy. I doubt it. I don’t think he’s ever called me Daddy either. Why? Why not. After the split, the twins wanted to do their own project. But you know, the twin thing wasn’t going to work. In order to market boy bands you need an ugly one. Not two! I’m joking, they’re beautiful boys. I love them. I promised them I’d get them this movie deal. Had it all worked out, it was a musical version of Rainman. I had Jefferson doing the Tom Cruise obviously but Lincoln got all pissed, saying I didn’t love him and that was why he had dyslexia.

Dyslexia, pah. Einstein was dyslexic and he invented the theory of relativity. Lincoln’s more dysfunctional than dyslexic, I can tell you. Used to wet the bed. And on a tour bus driving through the night to Tuscaloosa, you don’t want to wake up with your kid’s piss coming through the ceiling at you. I mean, hello, did I ask for the convertible? Is it raining?

I can laugh about it now but there was not a lot of laughter back then. The Rainman musical thing fell through and, even now, Jefferson still won’t return my calls.

Their dates of birth are probably on the internet.

Child number four. Monroe. Ha! Let’s face it, she had to be a stunning looking girl to get away with a name like Monroe and she is. Well, she is now. Is there, er, like a statute of limitations on certain misdemeanours. Look, I’ll be honest with you, we did a bit of work on her face when she was like five years old. It wasn’t a back street job but we flew to Amsterdam. Yeah Europe. There’s some fantastic cafes there, you should go. Fascinating people. You know, Anne Frank. Rembrandt. All those guys. Anyway, we get out there – it’s just a chin job. Forty minutes. She wakes up, we tell her she fell over and banged her chin and we stitched it all up. Best nine thousand dollars I ever spent. Well, up till then. Let me tell you, I’ve had nights since then where you need nine thousand dollars just to shut the driver up. It can’t be Monroe cos we talked just yesterday and she seemed fine. She’s been upset lately but yeah I think she was ok.

Their mother died. Heart problems. It was terrible. I miss her. Still.

Just leaves Franklin and he’s in jail. So it can’t have been him, right. I mean, he better not be out cos you know, attempted murder!! That’s why I got the gates. Jesus. Blood is thicker than water but you know a knife’s a knife. I told the District Attorney I don’t want him on Death Row or nothing, just stick him somewhere far away from me for 99 years. Kids. You raise em, you have to take some of the responsibility. I am not flawless. I am familiar with flaws. Yes, I suppose I screwed him out of two million dollars on a publishing deal. But its business. You can’t allow family loyalties to get in the way of business. Otherwise where would we be? I tell you where we’d be. We’d still be playing the Silver Nickel Casino in Box Elder, MO for fifty dollars apiece and no free beers.

So there’s the kids. You know. I love them with all my heart but we have differences of opinion. What family doesn’t?

Just the five kids. Well, just the five I know of. I mean, come on, all that young skirt hanging about in the eighties. Jesus, I’m human. Touch me! I bleed! Franklin proved that. There was this one tour, I think it was just after Family Values came out, this would be 1988 and well, let me tell you I was auditioning a lot of raw talent if you catch my drift, eh? I was like the access to Franklin and Jefferson. I was like the troll on the bridge man!

How old are you anyway, officer. You can’t be more than nineteen. Let me see that badge again.

What happened to your arm?

My Top Favourite 350 songs of all time. #345

Night Vision – Super Furry Animals

The Super Furry Animals are an odd bunch. Like a cross between the KLF and the Beatles, they write astonishing pop songs for people who hate pop music, political dance anthems for apolitical discophobes. Welsh language champions and patriots to a man, but banned from Eisteddfods for playing songs in English – an unruly bunch with a fine line in sardonic wit, Night Vision is one of those songs that sum up the Furries best. It’s almost an irresistible party rock anthem, gleefully sabotaged from within by a middle section that sounds like a squadron of depressed vuvuzela blowers chasing bees down a wind tunnel.

Taken from the patchy Guerrilla album, their last for Creation, this song is basically the sound of a hyperactive child’s dreams after drinking a shitload of Sunny Delight whilst being forced to watch Apocalypse Now with a room full of drunk and randy clowns.

Or something called DukeNukem.

I was either going to write about that track or this one, which sounds like Boards of Canada having a crack at Atmosphere by Joy Division.

Monday, 14 June 2010

My Top Favourite 350 songs of all time. #346

The Stooges – I Wanna Be Your Dog

Being one of those songs that changes everything. Like Hound Dog or Blue Monday, a template for much that is to come, one of those songs that when you find out when it was recorded, you feel the need to verify that information somewhere. Listen again to the first thirty seconds, the most exciting, visceral, gut wrenching, bollock pumping half minute of recorded music up to that moment in time and it’s like what, 1969? No fucking way. A fuzzy distortion, a whine of feedback, a menacing bassline, some insistent and irresistible drum beat and the best one note piano riff in history – it’s the kind of song that acts as a kind of litmus test for your humanity. Do you like this song? No? Kill yourself.

A couple of years earlier the Rolling Stones had written a song called Let’s Spend The Night Together which was too explicit for mainstream America to handle. And that was a fine song, almost sweetly conservative by today’s standards. Iggy wants to spend the night together too and he isn’t being too coy about it either, sounding desperate and testosteronic at the same time. Iggy knew what mainstream America could handle and went way beyond it.

Even Guy Ritchie, a man synonymous with the reverse Midas touch, couldn’t ruin this song, introducing it to a new generation of kids in Lock, Stock And Too Much Shit Acting. Yeah we can mock Iggy now for doing insurance adverts but fuck it, the guy wrote I Wanna Be Your Dog, an ode to dysfunctional yearning as eloquent as any in history which, in my book, means he can pretty much do whatever he wants.

I Don’t Like Mondays (And I Need A Scapegoat)

Like most England football fans I was initially dismayed at the draw with the USA on Saturday night. England created enough chances to have won it but so did the opposition and a draw, on reflection, seemed a fair result against a side that have beaten Spain in the last year amongst many other supposedly big scalps.

Robert Green made a calamitous error on the evening but you can’t help but think his devastated reaction to it was as much to do with what he knew would be meted out to him by the national sporting press.

For papers that make much of their devotion to all things Eng-er-lund they did a pretty good job of humiliating the family and friends of the England goalkeeper. “Hand of Clod” was a pretty common headline on front and back pages, the implication being that somehow England are already good as out of the tournament because one player made an idiotic error.

How constructive that criticism will turn out to be we have yet to find out. Capello now has a dilemma. Stick with Green and he shows his support of the player. Drop him and probably finish him as an international goalkeeper. If Green plays and drops another clanger, Capello will probably lose his job and the consequences for Green will be disastrous.

The hype surrounding England’s chances get more ridiculous with each tournament. Some facts – we don’t have a team filled with world-class players, we have a team filled with exceptionally well-paid ones. The obvious goalkeeping issue aside, in the defence probably only Ashley Cole might get into a world XI. In midfield Barry is no Veron, Lampard is no Kaka and Gerrard would probably make a World sub’s bench but no further than that. Up front we have our one unarguably world class player, Wayne Rooney. That’s it. And if Rooney has a poor game, England have a poor game. For a team that couldn’t qualify for the European Championships two years ago, talk of emulating the “heroes” of 1966 is frankly embarrassing.

To make Robert Green the scapegoat for not winning a football match is to deliberately miss the point about why our* national football team has so consistently failed. The Premiership has made millionaires of a great many very average footballers, and money and success are not the same thing. Footballers now routinely take home tens of thousands of pounds a week thanks to the largesse of Rupert Murdoch – a man who feels, perhaps not unreasonably, that as he bought the no doubt very expensive house Robert Green lives in, that he can take a shit on its doorstep.

The culture of blame that we currently find ourselves wallowing in isn’t merely Murdoch’s fault. It can be seen in many of the BBC’s flagship programmes. The Apprentice is a triumph of editing, a choice compilation of people making bad decisions before going into a boardroom to find the weakest person so they can be humiliated on national television. Of course, nobody forces these deluded people to go onto these shows but TV is increasingly a wall-to-wall broadcast from Bedlam.

The massive deterioration in the quality of the quiz show Have I Got News For You is a case in point. Clinging to its satirical status only by dint of its close to filming broadcast slot, the show has turned into a weekly opportunity to smugly bait which ever bear is foolish enough to take part that week. The recent show hosted by John Prescott was a classic case. Prescott is a walking disaster at the best of times but his treatment at the hands of Ian Hislop was less satirical and more a personal assault with Hislop repeatedly making references to Prescott’s various misdemeanours whilst turning his smug goblin fizzog to the joyfully whooping crowd knowing that Prescott wouldn't dare rise to it and smash his face in.

The talent shows with which ITV gleefully saturate their weekend schedules spend more time showing us possibly disturbed people lining up to be nationally humiliated is another obvious example of the chase for losers.

Even the news seems to be looking for victims. The appalling tragedy in Whitehaven would seem to be a story with enough victims and a clear scapegoat already but when the news channels began to suspect this was a tale with perhaps not enough momentum to keep it as a lead till the weekend, questions began to be asked about whether or not it was the fault of local unarmed policemen for not finding Derrick Bird quick enough. Had an unarmed policemen challenged Bird of course he would probably have been gunned down and then he’d be a hero and another story within itself. You can’t help thinking that, in the press’s eyes, that this is really what the police are guilty of – not laying down a sacrificial lamb or two on which a follow-on story might be built.

Good journalism is about asking questions, is about challenging figures of authority and examining a story from all angles. It’s a truism that no news is good news but does that mean the opposite must be the only way in which to form a journalistic narrative.

Comparing a goalkeeping error to a rampaging gunman may be trite but the coverage remains essentially the same – find someone to blame and start from there, and if an obvious target doesn’t immediately present itself, focus on finding or inventing one.

The news media has essentially turned itself into a kind of journalistic version of those ambulance chasers that promise compensation for people injured in accidents over the last five years. If you’ve been in a tragedy in the last five minutes and you haven’t found someone to adequately blame, call this number.

It is often said of us British that we like to laugh at ourselves. However, it certainly makes for a better joke if that laughter is unprompted. These days we like to laugh at others and invite them to join in later.

Rather than look for someone to mock, perhaps we should all indulge in a collective navel-gazing, wonder perhaps if we aren’t all to blame for Robert Green’s human error and Derrick Bird’s atrocities. Maybe we could consider the idea that by buying the Sun and subscribing to Sky, it’s us who are responsible for funding a lavishly rewarded clique of average footballers with more ambition than ability. And when we fail to adequately punish those MPs who cheat the taxpayer, we mock our precious ideals of democracy and justice, and inevitably that leads to men like Derrick Bird deciding to mete out their own form of punishment.

Just as we get the governments we deserve, we get the football team we deserve and the press too. Cancel your subscription to Sky Sports, arrest your local MP and get angry at the right targets, starting with yourselves.

*Admittedly only if you're English, other UK nations are advised that although supporting whoever's playing England can be defended on grounds of "my enemy's enemy is my friend" it probably stems from a sense of inadequacy.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

My Top Favourite 350 songs of all time. #347

Ten Benson - Evil Heat.

Somewhere between the cod-Americana of Alabama 3 and the random greatness of the Fall lay Ten Benson. Not content with one of the greatest band names ever, they released a fine mini album - 6 Degrees of Benson which contained this particular song as well as The Claw, surely the best country song ever written about a disembodied tentacle.

Evil Heat half nicks the riff from M's Pop Muzik, adds random farting keyboard noises and sinister vocals "The man in the fire has smokin' eyes..." and with it's bizarre synthesis of Wild West and lo-fi indie would be the perfect theme tune to a cartoon series of No Country For Old Men.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

My Top Favourite 350 songs of all time. #348

Transfusion by Nervus Norvus

The automobile is a recurring trope in the American rock and roll narrative. The first rock and roll record, Rocket 88 by Jackie Brenston from 1951, was a tribute to the Oldsmbobile of the same name. From then on, cars and rock were wedded in high-speed rebellious matrimony. Chuck Berry's No Particular Place to Go, Beach Boys Little Deuce Coupe all the way through to such recent "classics" like Meatloaf's Paradise By The Dashboard Light.

Full credit then to one Nervus Norvus, whose novelty hit Transfusion was one part rock cruising classic, one part safety advice and one part lunatic pisstake of injured drivers on the rock and roll highway.

A spooked voice sings....

Tooling down the hightway doing 79
I'm a twin pipe papa and I'm feelin fine
Hey man! Dig that was that a red stop sign?

Cue the sound of panic, breaking glass, twisting metal and panicking brakes.....

And then our singer begins the first in a series of brilliant requests for medical attention...

Transfusion transfusion
I'm just a solid mess of contusions
Never never never gonna speed again
Slip the blood to me Bud

After Bud, it's time for Bruce, Jimson, Barrett and Alan to be called upon for the transfusions of the title. It's hysterical, camp and still funny today. Pre-empting the melodramatic roadkill of songs such as the Shangri-La's Leader of the Pack and Twinkle's Terry, Nervus Norvus (real name Jimmy Drake) should have had a worldwide smash with this but the public's loss is our secret gain.

All together now, put a gallon in me Alan....

Cumbrage, Spillage,

Prince Charles visited the county of Cumbria yesterday to offer comfort to those affected by Derrick Bird. So that's a shooting enthusiast visiting communities recovering from an outbreak of shootings, whilst being protected by discretely armed bodyguards.

I'm sure his intentions were honourable but as a member of one of the most visibly pro-gun families in Britain, isn't it a bit like sending Gary Glitter to perform at Praia De Luz?

Since Derrick Bird's killing spree in Cumbria, it is estimated that some 400 people have been murdered in the United States in gun-related incidents but Barack Obama, leader of the Greatest Nation of Shooting and Polluting Enthusiasts in the Free World, decided to have a pop at British Petroleum for being shit at stopping deep sea oil leaks whilst choosing not to comment on the insulting level of justice meted out to Union Carbide (now part of Dow Chemical) this same month.

Obama's gunning at "British Petroleum" rather than "BP" conceals quite slickly the fact that whatever he chooses to call this company, it employs far more Americans than British employees, 40% of its shareholders are American, and the company helps provide Mr and Mrs Gasguzzler of Corporate Christi, Texas with much of the fuel required for their countless trips to Taco Bell and Guns R Us.

A nation built on exploitation of natural resources and one that's currently engaged in establishing stable democracies in the Middle East (TRANS: securing oil for future generations of the Gasguzzler family) has every right to complain and criticise when disasters such as the situation in the Gulf of Mexico occur. However, Obama would do far better to use this disaster as a platform for raising the idea seemingly most abhorrent to the American consumer, how much oil does a land need?
This is perhaps the most high-profile environmental tragedy to occur yet - and where better for it to occur than off the coast of the land of plenty.

Twenty five thousand ordinary Indians died in the wake of the Bhopal tragedy, millions continue to live in it's long shadow. America needs to wake up to its own part in the BP disaster - complicit as it is in the ongoing looting of the world's finite natural resources. The legacy of Bhopal is a tragedy and should have acted as a warning to multinationals everywhere, the relatively minor loss of human life off the Louisiana coast should be a wake up call to polluters both multinational and individual.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Opening Ceremonies

Why the fuck do they bother with opening ceremonies?

Opening ceremonies are the sporting equivalent of fancying someone for ages, working towards an opportunity of getting taken back into a cab to their place, getting in said cab, having an awkward fumble on the doorstep, and then just as you're about to be led to the bedroom your would-be lover decides to do a lap of the entire house trying on different clothes whilst you politely laugh and wonder whether or not to kill yourself.

They're shit. Ceremonies have no place in sport, the whole point of which is that most games are based on some sort of elaborately costumed and formulated set of alternative life rules anyway so fuck off. It's important we have certain rituals and traditions so as we don't all suddenly drop our tribal alleigances and suddenly become one humungous amorphous monoglottal Europony, I understand that. But, Jesus, these are dull. No child ever bought a World Cup sticker album in the hope of completing a 2 page representation of a bunch of highly excited locals dressed as footballs hurling themselves into the Goal of Life.

Red Bloke: I'm On Television. Yellow Bloke: What Is Television?

When I was a kid, there was a fantastic show called It's A Knockout. Which was basically a huge live colourful cross between Total Wipeout and the Eurovision Song Contest. Men dressed as Frankenstein would chase Heidi type girls down woodland paths and try not to fall into the water. Helpfully all the teams wore their country's initials on their back so we knew who won. Britain joined in but part of the fun was that we never won and we had a good laugh at crazy Johnny Foreigner.

That was the only combination of competitiveness and ridiculous costume that has ever worked. There were no opening rituals, none needed. And what's worse is the Olympics are only two years away. Any sense of national superiority, already a pretty sparse commodity, will vanish the moment David Cameron and the Queen press a big magic button and a little part of East London will be filled with thousands of gaily coloured schoolchildren forming a gigantic Hitler on the pitch and then flipping some cards onto their heads to reveal a Coca Cola can. Or something. Ceremonies are basically a way of saying "Look we're fairly unlikely to win any medals or cups or stuff but look at the way our national resources can be squandered for just a few minutes primetime advertising dollars."

Stop these ceremonies now. Funerals aside, let's just cut to the chase on everything. Rituals are for primitives, not sophisticated iphone-using metrosexual uberconsumers like ourselves.

Imagine how much money would be saved by having trials that lasted ten minutes. Judge walks in, jury walks in. Defendant says their bit. Prosecution theirs. Judge asks the jury what do you reckon. Simple as that. Crime might rise, it might fall. It doesnt matter. We'd save a fortune in legal costs and that's all that matters in the current age of Fred Austere.

In fact, we should use that as the opening ceremony for London 2012. No dancers, no paper lions, none of that shit. Just straight into the action, no declaring the Games open, no lighting of the torch (I mean who the fuck does anything by flaming torch light now, apart from Goths and perverts) - straight into the 100 metres or something. Tell the world we're such sports fans we couldn't be arsed spending 18 months telling Hackney schoolkids how to form the shape of a traditional London bus before exploding into various symbolic directions as a spray painted bunch of pigeons shit the Olympics logo whilst that little one out of Diversity does a dance. Send a message to the world, that will. No more ceremonies, thanks very much.

Having the World Cup in South Africa is basically like letting a starving kiddywink watch you cook a massive roast dinner, then eating it in front of them and leaving the stripped bones outside for them to play with. The opening ceremony is a smoke screen, a trick of the light, look everyone we dont have the most quickly widening gulf between rich and poor on Earth and to prove it we've dressed some locals up as brightly coloured birds.

Goallless draw I reckon, this one.

My Top Favourite 350 songs of all time. #349

The slightly overweight countdown continues....

Cover versions fall into two categories. Shit ones and stunners. The shit ones fail because either the original song was shit, the artist covering it is shit or the new version so uninteresting it only enhances the qualities of the original.

Stunners do the opposite, a great cover version should make you forget that it's a cover version at some point. Then it should make you dig out the original and wonder at how the artist got from A to inspired B.

Saint Etienne's take on Right Said Fred's 1991 wedding party fave I'm Too Sexy is a case in point. Takes the comedy of the original and adds a slightly tongue-in-cheek veneer of Eurodisco sadness that prevents it from ever getting near the record collection of a bloke called Howard with a cheap set of lights, an amplifier and a new name at weekends (DJ Supersounds or something similar)

It almost feels like a smug injoke with its references to their then label boss Jeff Barrett but Etienne steer clear of all out knowing irony. There's the same sense of euphoric loss you'd feel at finding some old photographs of a younger, nicer, thinner you with all life stretched out before you like some undiscovered island. Back when you were beautiful, optimistic and perhaps too sexy for this song.

World Cup Guide - Group 5


: Made light work of qualifying. Turned up half an hour late for each game, smelling slightly herbal and making everyone tea before scoring a sneaky winner after boring the opposition senseless with their cod-reggae take on Give Peace A Chance on the bongos.

: Being incredibly reasonable. Gone are the old days of Dutch hostility towards their own team mates, these days the team enjoy group hugs and team bonding weekends in cultural hotspots such as Amsterdam.

: Skunk Van Der Pander. Mysterious but enigmatic Dutchman, formerly known as Clarence McStephen.

Star Player
: Ruud Gestuhr (pictured). The Rotterdam Bisexuals goalkeeper is a big fan of the favourites with his pre-penalty routine of kissing both goalposts and offering the linesman a blow job.

: Agatha Christie’s famous disappearance was recently explained in a Dutch television documentary. She had been asked to referee the 1928 Dutch Cup Final between Nijmegen Fans of Noel Coward and Eurythmics Den Haag, and had forgotten to leave a note for the cleaner.



Form: Got into the World Cup on a technicality having not been invited to qualify they turned up at FIFA’s house and threw a massive tantrum. It was Friday, it was late and Denmark looked so upset I just had to let them in said FIFA Secretary-General Muhammad Schweitzer.

Tactics: Traditionally the Danes have taken large amounts of drink and drugs before matches and wandered on to the pitch in some disarray, intimidating opponents and amusing spectators with vomiting and dancing. Not having qualified, we can’t say we know how they’ll play but some clues might be found in the title of their World Cup Song, Dã Murn Ov Dã f RaMM (translation: This Better Not Be Watered Down)

: Moomin Trollson (pictured). Shy, painfully thin recluse who watches games from behind a comfy blanket covered with pictures of Clangers, Trollson has been manager of Denmark for 45 years due to an administration error.

Star Player: Les Batersbee. Still playing for Deportivo Tripoli at the age of 42, the sprightly grey haired winger still boasts a mean turn of pace despite his colostomy bag (which has its own squad number, 25 – the number of piss litres it can hold)
Trivia: Denmark’s Richard Briersson is the nicest player in professional football. The Homepride Hvidovre striker apologises for any fouls accidentally made, always following up with text messages and Christmas letters and even famously inviting the entire ADHD Odense team back to his place for tea and cake after scoring the goal which relegated them.

Odds: 387-1


: The most successful country in African football history continue to produce generations of World Cup footballers. This is their 8th successive qualification, achieved in a dramatic play off against Malawi which was abandoned when the stadium declared independence.

: Shame the opposition into giving them an advantage by turning up barefoot and in ragged kit. This covers up the fact that the Cameroon FA aren’t some miracle conveyor belt of footie talent after all, several of the players played in the 1982 tournament.

Manager: Chip Flightz. The veteran Bosnian has been severely criticised back home for his homo-erotic eulogies following victory and his insistence on showering with his team at every conceivable opportunity.

Star Player: Roger Miller. The veteran country singer plays in his 8th tournament and promises to sing King of the Road using the corner flag as a pretend microphone should he score.

Trivia: Life expectancy in Cameroon is significantly lower for men than it is women, a difference averaging 20 years. Experts claim that this is something to do with the powerful strength of Cameroon’s favourite alcoholic tipple, a mysterious beer known as Morphine Artois.

Odds 200-1


Form: Having nearly embarrassed England by pointing out their superior average income and life expectancy rates before a recent friendly, the Japanese team went on to humiliate England completely by winning 3-0 with all goals scored by that little fella who used to be in Banzai.

Tactics: Brilliantly choreographed and synchronised martial arts formation bamboozles opposition. Corner flags used as pole vaults, team mates flipped into air at free kicks and all that.

: Sony-Goran Eriksson. There aren’t many people with joint Japanese and Swedish parents and looking at the frightening face of Eriksson, one can see why fondue nights never took off in suburban Kyoto. He looks like Big Bird on ketamine.

Star Player: Salaryman Yasimoto. The Wipe On Wipe Off Wiesbaden winger once threatened to disembowel himself after being criticised by a manager at his former club Showtune Shoguns. He then decapitated said manager and was sentenced to life imprisonment. Released on a technicality due to the judge not having addressed Yasimoto in the correct formal manner, he fled to Germany.

Trivia: The red spot on the Japanese flag is nothing to do with the sun, rather it is symbolic of the “interactive content of television, which will be pioneered by our great land one day soon” – a quote from legendary 11th century Japanese poet, Nintenko Sakekami.

: 80-1

Thursday, 10 June 2010

My Top Favourite 350 songs of all time. #350

The least interesting countdown in pop begins with this.

I loved Gorky's Zygotic Mynci. I think this is my favourite song of theirs. It's deceptively twee. Miserable in a funny way, anthemic in an unanthemic way and containing more musical ideas in two and a half minutes than the entire career of the Courteeners without being anything less than compelling throughout.

It wants to be Robert Wyatt, 10cc, the Beach Boys and early Pink Floyd at the same time and pulls it off. In anyone else's hands the use of picnicking as a metaphor for sex would be a disaster but with Euros Childs it somehow works. They're a far cleverer band than I think they ever got credit for, perhaps they were too subtle for the mainstream tastes, but as an antidote to the vastly unimaginative shite that made up the majority of Britpop* they worked wonders.

*Some otherwise well-informed people actually talk about Britpop now as though it was some sort of counter-cultural movement that united the island in an unstoppable momentum through Euro 96 and towards the rejection of the Thatcher project. Which, when you actually sit down and listen to Fine Time by Cast, is overstating it just a fucking notch.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010


What is Shanting?

Shant'ing is a refusal to challenge one's own innate prejudices even when confronted with evidence to disavow you of your precious views. I’m one of life’s shan’ters apparently. According to a mate of mine, I take a dislike to things prior to trying them out and won’t budge when presented with evidence of said thing’s goodness. It’s not so much that you won’t like something as you shan’t, he said, shortly before passing me the crack pipe.

Sad thing is, he’s probably right. Having a reasonably diverse taste in music has empowered me, in my own mind at least, to dismiss acts out of hand purely on reading an interview or hearing that someone whose music taste I mistrust is a fan.

Down the years, I’ve amassed a whole Not I-pod of groups I’ve entirely neglected to listen to out of snobbery, misinformed prejudice and a dozen more reasons. U2, the Levellers, the Stereophonics, the entire oeuvre of metal, Sisters of Mercy and most goth bands, pretty much everything on 4AD (with the obvious exception of Pixies, Breeders), the last 35 years of Rolling Stones records, anything by Sting...all of them shan’ted by me.

I love it though. Some things in life I like to have my prejudices and opinions challenged. I like to argue about politics with my friends of different persuasions. I try new food all the time. But music is the one thing I cannot budge on. Except for those oh so rare occasions when a band whose music normally is guaranteed to suck big time, manage to produce something that makes you sneak out at the dead of night to listen to it without anyone finding out.


1: DEACON BLUE – Your Town. In the late 1980’s loads of earnest bands emerged from the Celtic hinterlands with unbelievably over sincere and earnest songs often with a mildly political flavour. Scotland were especially guilty in this department, not only producing ironically Yuppie-styled soul bastards Hue and Cry but also Deacon Blue who sold shitloads of records despite having a singer-songwriter (very 80s that) called Ricky Ross who dressed like an accountant at a Christmas party and looked a bit like the bloke out of the BT adverts, you know the one who used to be in My Family, except after being kicked in the face a few times. I despised them. And then one Autumn night in 1992, the radio was on in my Carmarthen kitchen – a slightly disembodied female voice started chanting ethereally, some epic sounding proto-trance keyboards began to build and then a dramatic volley of guitar and distant drumming began. I turned the volume up. A familiar but distorted voice kicked in. It couldn’t be, could it? Not....AAAAH I LIKE A DEACON BLUE SONG. FUCK FUCK FUCK!!!!! Admittedly it helped that they’d taken the very much in-vogue DJ Paul Oakenfold to produce said track but there was enough of old Ricky and co to suggest that maybe they weren’t utter shit after all – a feeling that dissipated when the next thing they released reverted to the old formula of being wank on chips.

2: JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE – Cry Me A River. The typical career arc of a boyband member is Be Born Attractive, Get Discovered By Closeted Homosexual Media Mogul, Release Several Soundalike Singles With Absolutely No Artistic Merit Whatsoever, Get Old, Split Up, Die In Tragic Solo Circumstances. Timberlake, a man not only blessed with being cute enough for even Nick Griffin to probably want to fuck him, but also possessor of one of the coolest surnames ever, goes and breaks the rules. His debut single was a classic stop whatever the fuck you were just doing and listen to this moment. An almost sinister piece of RnB, a childish one finger keyboard solo, some rain effects and Timberlake sounding vulnerable and vengeful all at the same time. Fucking brilliant.

3: THE OSMONDS – Crazy Horses. When Take That made their comeback a couple of years back and the world was forced to generally agree that actually “Rule the World” was genius and then started to backtrack over the retrospectively realised merits of songs like “Never Forget”, it wasn’t the first time a boyband shocked the world. Crazy Horses stands out in the Osmonds recorded canon like the Olympic flame in a sea of shit-covered cigarette lighters. Absolutely barking. Who better to act as spokespeople for the burgeoning environmentalist movement than a clean-cut Mormon family band from the biggest polluting country on earth? When JLS release a record full of screeching synthesizer noises, glam rock guitars and funky as hell horns about the dangers of downloading child pornography then this record might have a rival as Most Unlikely Record Ever Released.

4: STEREOPHONICS – Dakota. Some things you can always rely on. Sir Alex Ferguson pointing at his watch to indicate the referee's bribe money is about to kick in, otherwise unemployed idiots trying to kick prison vans if there’s a nonce inside, etc. Likewise, the Stereophonics, a band good for a bit of gravel-voiced 3rd rate sub-Faces pub indie, nothing else. A band that, on the whole, existed purely for the kind of people who admire Chris Moyles. Who after years of releasing turgid lumpen earshit then release this. A subtle electro pulse hums beneath a gravel-voiced embodiment of ennui, like The Pet Shop Boys fronted by The Throat Cancer Choir, before kicking into something genuinely fucking goddamn full throttle rock and roll yeah and back out again into electronic yearning. I couldn’t bring myself to buy it though. It would have been like voting Conservative purely on the strength of scrapping the ID card. Shanting in full effect.

5: GOMEZ – We Haven’t Turned Around. Steve Coogan used to have this character called Paul Calf. Calf was a stereotype of the unemployed working class Northern male, forever bemoaning students. He would have hated Gomez. Christ knows I did. A band that practically stank of Bob Marley posters, trust funds and transient Socialist politics – Gomez were the most student band of all time. Their mildly diverting inoffensive indie dance secret weapon was the bizarre voice of Ben Ottewell, a man who looked like somebody big in the Young Conservative Society but somehow had the voice of an obscure thirties blues singer from the Mississippi Delta. When I heard this record I felt the pain of a Roman emperor touched by the cry of a baby gladiator. It helped that the video accompanying said record was a thing of apocalyptic sadness, just the thing you need in your life when every news bulletin is telling you that come Dec 31 1999, the world’s computers will all somehow suddenly think it’s 1900, realise they haven’t yet been invented and send the world’s passenger aircraft tumbling from the skies in some sort of universal celebration of kamikaze culture. Like those imagined plummeting jets, Gomez never touched such heights again and I managed to sneak home from Spillers Records with my copy safely tucked into my plane-proof trouser pocket.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Turning A Drummer Into A Crisis

“The second drummer drowned....”
Pavement, Cut Your Hair.

What is it with these drummers? There they are, manning the “skins”, sitting at the back of tour buses, counting to eight in empty auditoriums the world over. Piece of piss, you’d think but no. Drumming, especially in fair-to-middling nineties indie combos, carries with it a life expectancy roughly equivalent to someone dressed up as Mary Queen of Scots at Elizabeth I’s 50th birthday party.

If you’re the kind of person, and I know Denis Norden has a copyright on opening sentences with that clause but bear with me, who thinks that “indie” begins with the release of Parklife and that the Shine compilations of the mid 90s are some kind of Rosetta Stone of alternative rock then you’ll have been devastated to hear of the death of yet another nineties drummer.

Ah, poor Stuart Cable. The former drummer with the Stereophonics has been found dead in his South Wales home at the tender age of 40. And, as such, has found a way into rock folklore that would have been denied him had he merely lived to a ripe old age. Nobody can honestly say that Stuart was one of the great rock drummers, unless they were limiting it to Welsh bands or blokes called Stuart. But now the Dead Indie Drummers Club has a new member; the bloke from Lush has given him the tour of the grounds, thingy out of Feeder’s poured him a large drink and whatsisname from Space has shown him where the toilets are.

I used to see Stuart wandering around Cardiff wearing a ridiculous Stetson over his fantastic hair. I admit I thought he looked a bit of a prick. My prejudices against the band he used to drum for overrode any thoughts of admiring his sartorial choices or just merely ignoring them. The fact that he walked around Cardiff like a giant bubble permed cowboy was proof to me that he was a nob.

Then there was his TV show, perhaps the worst case of a show being made purely on the basis of someone thinking of a title first. Apart from Touch the Truck. The show was called Cable TV. Each week Stuart would host a chat show with some Welsh celebrity mates and Stuart would sit there grinning like an idiot who can’t believe he’s being paid to talk rubbish with people plucked from his mobile’s contacts list.

But I’m surprised at how sad I am about his unfortunate demise. I’m only a few months younger than him and it could have been me choking on my vomit in the night. Rather than someone else’s, as the grim joke about the dead drummer in This Is Spinal Tap has it. Part of me wonders how Stuart might have been feeling at the thought of his old band headlining a homecoming concert in Cardiff without him at the weekend; there would surely have been some regret at how things turned sour between him and his former friends. Perhaps he opened a bottle of Jack, put on some old Stereophonics records and got wankered and fell asleep dreaming of what might have been.

I hope not. I hope he just got visited in a pissed up dream by Keith Moon and John Bonham, proper rock gods and keepers of the beat for all eternity. Cable’s wandered off into the white light of rock and roll Valhalla and isn’t coming back.

You’ve got to admire a bloke who lived the rock and roll dream of forming a band, getting out of the Valleys and then settling for a little house back home as soon as he’d made a few quid. Not for him the pile in the country, the tax exile status, the Californian hippie retreat. Just an afternoon rock show on a local radio station and a nice house close to where he grew up. Yep, that’ll do. It wasn’t very rock and roll but he saved that for bowing out.

Rest in peace and I’m sorry for calling you a dickhead that time on St Mary’s Street. Oh and if the drummer from Shed Seven’s reading, don’t walk under any ladders.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

World Cup Guide - Group 4


Form: Tired of fighting the disadvantage that comes from having to qualify from a group including the cast of South Pacific and the Falklands XI, Australia cheekily claimed to be part of Asia and won their Asia Zone group. Bangladesh tried the return journey but were rejected on a somewhat dubious and highly racist points system.

: Sledging. Making jokes about the opposing goalie’s mother. Winding up the other team to the extent that one of them will crack and get sent off.

Manager: Dave Strewth. After being sacked for selecting the stingray that killed Steve Irwin in his first squad, Strewth has been reappointed following the tragic death of his successor, Barry Michaelmore, found mysteriously drowned in a boxing ring.

Star Player: Pingu Mingu. Despite having played 26 games for Bikini Atoll and never having been to Australia, the 18 foot tall Polynesian was snapped up by FC Erinsborough and issued with an Australian passport in exchange for keeping quiet about the effects of nuclear testing on his family, notably his conjoined triplet sisters and his mother, the Human Crab.

Trivia: The aboriginal people of Western Australia played a version of football according to cave paintings found near Rockhampton. Two teams of eleven men played with a round ball on a pitch roughly half a mile long. Teams had kits, goalkeepers and matches had linesmen, referees and corner flags. At the end of each match the winning team would take a woman and spit roast her whilst posing for paintings. Animals, these people were, animals.

Odds 1000-1


: The Mighty Moths enter their second World Cup in disarray. Star player Stanley Doupetit has been laid low with the Ebola Virus, whilst centre back pairing Michel Derrida and Frankie Garfunkel have been imprisoned for declaring the love that dare not speak its name and buying Pixie Lott’s album.

Tactics: Ghana garner sympathy. They pose with kittens and puppies for team photos, pull shy schoolboy faces when cautioned and play dead if fouled. By the end of the match, even the most stone hearted of referees has usually been won over.

: Lee Hurst. The forgotten man of mid-90s laddish era comedy game shows has been a revelation at international level. Results have improved and Doupetit claims that training rituals such as playing blindfold and being threatened with a touch of Rory McGrath’s face have boosted morale.

Star Player: Doupetit aside, watch out for 12 year old revelation Hampstead Heath (pictured). Despite his unfortunate name, Hampstead boasts a neat turn of pace, and when in close proximity to other blokes in the box, goes down a little too easily.

: All the teams in Ghana’s premiership are named, for reasons I haven’t invented yet, for films and TV shows starring James Garner. Hence Rockford Accra, Kumasi Maverick and my personal favourite Takoradi Space Cowboys.

Odds: 66-1


Form: The Germans qualified with uncharacteristic slovenliness. Minister for Appropriation of National Cliches, Helmut Schulderpadz announced a “ten percent drop in references to “Teutonic efficiency” and “typical German precision” by foreign commentators were responsible for the poor performance of the national side. Before crunch match with Hungary, the team were shown the comments page on Al Murray’s website and were inspired to a 9-0 victory. The uber-efficient bastards.

Tactics: The only thing wild and untamed in Germany is the underarm hair of eighties chanteuse Nena. Precision is everything. Watching Germany play football is like watching the Royal Family having sex. It’s slow, painful but you have to admit they get there in the end. Incidentally, if anyone wants a copy of Sandringham, Christmas 1985, email me. The footage is shit cos its CCTV but you do get a glimpse of Prince Andrew being lowered onto the bloke out of Mask by some royal attendants.

Manager: Klaus Dryer. Perma-tanned Aryan beauty Dryer was the inspiration for Spelbound’s series-winning performance on Britain’s Got Talent. With a penchant for wearing nothing in the dug out, Dryer inspires great performances from a team desperate to avoid the half-time Herr Dryer treatment.

Star Player
: Bürt Renulz(pictured). The Dresden Inflatables striker scored in every game in qualifying and while his pretending-to-shit-his-pants goal celebration is irritating, it isn’t as irritating as that advert for James Corden’s World Cup party with Vernon Kay pretending to DJ and Adrian Chiles being greeted on his arrival in much the same way as Terry Waite was on his homecoming, rather than the non committal shrug that a bloke with a face like a half-chewed croissant would usually receive on arriving at a party.

Trivia: The famous scene from Jim’ll Fix It where a bunch of boy scouts eat food on a rollercoaster makes up the opening credits of the German TV equivalent of Crimewatch - Der Robbersnare

Odds 200-1


Form: Blitzed through qualifying with surprising ease. One of the youngest nations in Europe, Serbia were expected to behave like the new boy at work in their group, asking directions, making mistakes and committing a never-to-be-forgotten faux pas about the facilities officer’s skin condition. Instead they were even more annoying, making no mistakes at all, showing loads of initiative, improving team performance and copping off with the fit girl from Human Resources by lunchtime. Which, as a metaphor for beating Albania 3-2 with a dodgy penalty, is stretching it a bit.

Tactics: Confuse opponents by pretending to be another one of the republics of the former Yugoslavia. Wearing Kosovo’s kit, hanging out in Macedonia’s favourite coffee shop. That sort of thing.

: Luboslav Crostic (pictured). Winner of the coolest man in Serbia on account of not possessing a mullet, Crostic rides a Harley Davidson up and down the touchline shouting abuse at the opposition. Any match official foolish enough to ask Crostic to stick to his technical area usually ends up regretting it.

Star Player
: Hangman Slovovic. Now with Trustfund Trieste in Italy’s Serie H, the hairiest man in football is famous for his pretentious statements at press conferences. His most famous – “When George Segal follows Glenda Jackson, it is because he is in character and wouldn’t normally be seen dead around a Marxist bitch” is the inscription on the gates of Serbia’s national stadium.

Trivia: Every player in the Serbian squad has a surname ended in “ic” except rookie midfielder Slobodan Ap Rhys. The Llangollen Increasing Heroin Problem player qualifies through his Serbian father.

Odds: 80-1

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Come On Pilgrim

For centuries the act of pilgrimage has been an integral part of the religious life. Whether it be a trip to Rome to witness Team Pope’s weekly meeting or a journey to Mecca to take part in the most dangerous episode of Takeshi’s Castle ever, such journeys have traditionally acted as tests of one’s faith, the overcoming of various obstacles representing proof that one’s chosen deity has delivered you safely to Jerusalem, Lourdes or wherever as reward for your faith.

In recent times, the act of pilgrimage has evolved somewhat. Flights to Mecca mean that one can test one’s resolve and faith and still be back in time to catch the final episode of Friends. Outside of the religious box, fans of deceased rock stars make pilgrimages to sit at gravesides in Paris (Jim Morrison), New York (John Lennon) and Macclesfield (Ian Curtis) whilst carving overwrought Tweets in nearby trees.

Now, fans of the recently finished BBC sitcom Gavin and Stacey will be able to make their own pilgrimages a la Gavin from Billericay to Barry Island, thanks to Brit Movie Tours. A six hour coach journey across the southern half of the country apparently made more bearable by nonstop videos of a sitcom wherein two couples struggle to maintain their relationships whilst making the same journey. At the end of this leap of faith, the chance to see the amusement arcade where Nessa works must surely provide such an outburst of spirituality as to compete with the holy waters at Lourdes.

Back in the innocent days when cinema tie-ins extended to nothing more than being able to say “seen the film, bought the t-shirt” without sounding clichéd and synergy was just a soft drink for heretics, the idea that people would have made acts of pilgrimage in order to replicate the life experiences of fictional characters would have been laughable. People didn’t do that sort of thing. Not here, not British people, but ever since the nation’s kids filled their bedrooms with Star Wars toys, the search for new ways to enhance one’s enjoyment of a film or television series has been unending.

We used to laugh at Japanese kids obsessed with the minutiae of American rock and roll culture, we’d poke fun at battle re-enactment societies. We watched footage of pilgrims to Mecca dying in stampedes partly in shock but also with a smug sense of not being like “those crazy religious nutters”.

But now watching television isn’t enough. Escapism mustn’t end with the closing credits. Now, people throw Lost parties and Abigail’s Party nights. The kids of Brighton and Bristol wear Paxman wigs and snort Jamie Oliver’s pesto mix. Following today’s announcement of the end of the world’s longest running sitcom, it can be assumed that soon the hills of Yorkshire will be filled with elderly men in bathtubs, desperate to recreate the antics seen each week in Last of the Summer Wine.
Don’t get on the Gavin and Stacey bus, kids. If your own life is so wretched that only by making pilgrimages to the real life locations of a sitcom character’s life then go and watch The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin*, then go to the beach, go to Barry Island if you’re already on the coach there. Walk into the sea fully dressed. Keep moving, there’s a good pilgrim.

*the original, not the Clunes thing, christ.

World Cup Guide - Group 3


Form: Sneaked in at the death, overcoming a hostile Egyptian crowd to win the last African place. Made lots of sssh noises, giggled a bit at their reflection and then gave the game away falling out of their trousers into bed and farting.

– Cheap videos from manager predicting victory before each game. Destabilising opponents through oh hang on now that’s Al-Qaida. Erm, don’t know.

– Abdul Abubbul (pictured). Has spent most of the last ten years trying to convince various people that they “must have an Algerian grandmother somewhere” in order to qualify for the Algerian national side. Hence the presence in the side of such un-Algerian names as Hugh, Pugh and Barney McGrew.

Star Player – Cuthbert Dibble. The former Red Star Worksop striker, now with Moroccan side Casablanca Bogarts, is Abubbul’s most successful ancestry-related find.

Trivia: Algeria’s most popular sitcom, Mushal Muusss Prim, not only boasts a theme tune by Climie Fisher but also means “Dogs For Dinner? I’d Rather Deep Fry My Own Mother”

Odds 1000-1


: Good to Firm. England go into the tournament once again buoyed by a reckless kind of self-belief based on having subjugated much of the world into slavery for a few decades a couple of hundred years back. Their inability to beat Mongolia or Bhutan in recent friendlies suggests an early exit.

: Blunder through opening rounds with more luck than judgement. Save heroic performance for ten minutes to go in quarter final against fellow European has beens; pull back from two nil down to equalise with last kick of game. Lose on penalties half an hour later in frankly pathetic effort.

Manager: After the perceived failure of their first foreign coach Jean-Claude Van Hire, the FA asked everyone English to do it. Begged. After several fuck that’s by way of reply, England turned to their second foreign manager, Gerhardt Grooverider. He’s an impressive disciplinarian, having shot two or three players for smiling on the way to the showers.

Star Player
: Jeff Noodles (pictured). Still only 19 and with 92 caps already, Noodles is finally beginning to show the talent the nation first saw when he scored THAT header on a particularly grainy clip on You’ve Been Framed. The Manchester Corporate Monster striker is the finest product of the Bobby Charlton School of Excellence. “He’s even balder than I was at his age” blushes Sir Bobby, the duck egg headed fool.

Trivia: Ralph Amsey, manager of England’s only triumph in 66, was the first person to say the word “motherfucker” on national television. A disgrace that saw him lose both his job and his knighthood not to mention further appearances on Out of Town with Jack Hargreaves.

: 66-1


: A last gasp win over Russia was rewarded with the last of the European places and punished by an overnight invasion from a former host.

: I went to Slovenia once. Lovely place, cant remember much about it. I went with my ex-girlfriend, miserable bitch she was. Anyway, the Slovenian word for ice-cream is “sladoled”. That’s all I remember. That and watching my ex-girlfriend being entertained by a bunch of local lads with a different interpretation to the term “all-inclusive” to myself. Anyway, they had plenty of stamina those Sloves so I reckon they’ll look to soak up the pressure and hit em on the break. The filthy bastards.

Manager: Ess Pedwareck. Now in his nineties, Pedwareck is no stranger to controversy. It’s the name of an aftershave he launched in Slovenia with disgraced quiz show host John Leslie last year at the Montreux Jazz Festival.

Star Player
: Sezmi Strit. Former Miss Turkey now transsexual goalkeeper, Strit has his own changing room at Slovak HQ, not on account of his gender confusion but more to do with his own personal hygiene problems. “They have given me donkey bollocks. Not just the size either,” complained Strit in a recent interview.

Trivia: In Slovenia, it is possible to train as a funeral director at the age of 10. “In a country where you can drink at 8 and fuck at 9, it’s best to learn such skills early” said Education Minister Cillit Bang just before Balamory finished.



: Stormed through the North American qualifying group with ease.

Tactics: Confuse opponents with new terminology for sacrosanct football words. Hence “goal guards”, “bonus shoot plays” and “endzone groundspots”.

Manager: Tina Turner. The only female manager at the tournament. Struts technical area in ridiculous thigh high boots encouraging team with choruses from her back catalogue.

Star Player: Strange Currencies (pictured). The BP Oil Spillers flank-dasher, sorry winger, has attracted the attention of several scouts in Britain. Well, it’s just a phase that some boys go through.

: The last ever episode of Friends was originally entitled “The One Where They All Go And Watch A Game Of Soccer, Misunderstand the Rules, Go To A Bar, Have Three Beers And Mutilate Each Other In A Coffee Shop Instead.”

: 80-1

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

World Cup Guide - Group 2


Form: With Hugo Galtieri in charge, it was hoped that an Argentine team full of such talents as Lionel Ricci, Xavier Mashpotato and Claudio Burnsneck would finally gel as a world force. However, the usual clash of egos has meant that this team has had all the consistency of David Laws tenancy agreements.

Tactics – Invade at night on the pretence of trading in scrap metal. Hope no one notices.

Manager – Hugo Galtieri (pictured). The most controversial figure in world football. Ever since knocking England out of the 86 World Cup with the controversial Ball Up The Jumper goal, Galtieri has courted controversy in much the same way as Jeremy Clarkson courts being called a twat. But he’s got them to the World Cup and given up heroin in the same spell. “Football is the only drug” I need, he now says, in between nine day weekends spent staring at a Magic Eye poster in his bedroom.

Star Player – Lionel Ricci. Possibly the greatest footballer ever seen, Ricci can shoot, tackle, pass, dribble in a manner rarely seen outside a computer game. But can he pull a beautiful blind sculptor to make a model of his head for a ridiculous pop video. Who knows?

Trivia: Second choice goalkeeper Glorious Esteban spends his entire spare time watching his DVD of the Jodie Foster film Contact.

Odds 8-1


Form: Moist. The Super Bandits have enjoyed the usual trouble-free passage to the finals. Apart from training camps being filled with people under the impression they have been invited by email to play for Nigeria, the Bandits have also been dogged by controversy over accusations that some of their players aren’t as young as their birth certificates would claim. Strasbourg Colostomy striker Woodwork Mputago (pictured) has been forced to deny accusations that he is a lot older than the 76 years he admits to, whilst Hammersmith Apollo’s Brian Showadiwadi had to pull out of the squad after heat exhaustion blowing out the candles on his birthday cake.

Tactics: The senior citizens of the tournament rely on politeness from younger teams, often having the goal held open for them, the ball wrapped in a hot water bottle and the rules explained to them in a slow, patronising manner by that nice referee.

: The veteran firefighter of football, Franz Pfister, now in his eightieth year and with his fifteenth national role. Pfister, fresh from his surprise success with Cameroon at the Eurovision Song Contest, is one of the great innovators of the game. “Before I entered football, one merely bribed referees with money. I was the first to kidnap their fucking kids and threaten them.” Such business nous sees Pfister combine football management with a seat on the board of Shell.

Star Player: Fireworks Bando. Bando is the tallest player at the tournament. Married to Nigerian weathergirl, Miriam Steakhousegrills, Bando is revered as a god by many back home and his goal celebration of urinating on the corner flag is sure to wow the worldwide audience.

Trivia: Nigeria’s first coach was seventies sitcom star Deryck Guyler, in between filming series of Please Sir.

Odds: 66-1

South Korea

Form: I don’t fucking know, do I? They’re from Asia. I could look it up on Wikipedia but what’s the point. They qualified, right. So they did ok.

: Hoping that Nigeria and Greece are worse than they are. The 2002 hosts were the beneficiaries of some astonishing refereeing decisions eight years ago, not least the decision to abandon the game against Italy shortly after taking the lead, with the referee’s excuse of “wanting to improve everybody’s work/life balance” ratified by FIFA after a three day break in Tenby.

Manager: Burt Kwouk. A leftfield appointment to say the least, The former star of the Clouseau films team talks usually begin with leaping out of a cupboard and attacking his star players with a household mop.

Star Player: Hung Chi-Chi. Just signed for German side Frankfurt Dyspraxia, the dimunitive Korean is nicknamed Penny Farthing on account of having a barely descended right testicle.

Trivia: South Korea’s World Cup song for this tournament is a rewrite of Pavement’s Cut Your Hair featuring the line “Korea, Korea” instead of “Career, Career”. To be honest I don’t think they rewrote or re-recorded it to be honest. Nice one, Californian angular indie men.

Odds 200-1


Form: The last team to qualify from Europe thanks to some clever use of Socratic dialogue in the match against Lithuania who were convinced of the ethical importance of conceding a late Greek winner.

Tactics: Inventors of the 1-2-3-4 formation, the Greeks are masters of the counter-attack, often sneaking one in at the death. Prone to own goals apparently, if the rumours about sticking it in the wrong end are anything to go by.

Manager: Harry Hercules. The most corrupt manager in Greek football and believed to be personally responsible for much of the country’s debt, Hercules insists that being paid in cash personally for football transfers is “just the way my family have always done business.” Rumours that the Elgin Marbles are in fact a down payment on the Hercules outstanding gambling debts persist to this day.

Star Player
: Aristotle Snuffalofocus. The HIV Corfu centre-half has been the captain of Greece for the last five years. Wealth has brought him a string of women normally unavailable to people with a face like a sunburnt Jimmy Nail – “If I’d been born handsome, you’d never have heard of George Best”, he says.

Trivia: The motto of the Greek Football Federation translates as “Do You Want Salad With That?”

Odds: 80-1