Tuesday Tunes 16: Joke


 

 

(I forgot to put in a picture last week, so here’s an extra one to make up for that)

So, we’re now three days into our relaxed lockdown and if I’m honest, it has gone better than I expected. When I heard that pubs would be allowed to open from 6am last Saturday I feared the worst, but despite several reports of throngs of people ignoring social distancing rules and getting drunk things have been relatively quiet. The proof of the pudding will come in a couple of weeks, when we will know if there has been a spike in infections: already there are reports of three pubs having to close again having just reopened, due to customers testing positive for the virus – that doesn’t bode well, but hopefully they aren’t the start of a wider trend.

Reading the Sunday paper to get a glimpse of what had happened on the first day of relative freedom,  my eye was caught by a piece headed ‘The world is laughing, and Britain is the big joke.’ Well, it would, wouldn’t it? This was a less than scientific or comprehensive trawl through newspaper coverage in several countries, but it was good to get a view on how others see us: after all, the rabid right wing press here is much given to demonising citizens of other nations so it is only fair that they get their own back. It was enlightening: I learned that Germans call us ‘Inselaffen,’ which translates as ‘island apes,’ and refer to our Prime Minister as ‘Grossmaul’ – ‘bigmouth.’ Seems fair to me. And then there was Spain: they have long had a word ‘balconing’ to describe the habit of drunken British tourists of risking their lives by jumping from hotel balconies into the pool, but they have now added ‘coronaviring’ to their vocabulary, to describe our habit of risking our lives by flocking in huge numbers to crowded beaches ( I mentioned this mass suicide attempt last week). There were several  examples from other countries, but these should give you the gist. They also gave me this week’s theme for my tunes, taken from the headline: joke.

This week’s first tune is probably an obvious choice, given the theme, but as it reminds me of good times I was never going to leave it out:

That was released in 1973, and was part of the soundtrack to my uni days. It was the title track of the Steve Miller Band’s eighth studio album, and was a US #1 at the time, though not here in the UK. But, weirdly, it did top our charts in 1990 after being re-released to tie in with being featured in a Levi ad. Go figure!

My second tune also dates from the 70s, and goes back to the days when I thought this guy was good:

That was from Rod’s eighth album, Footloose And Fancy Free, and if I’m honest I think that was around the time that, to my eyes, he moved from being a rock musician into the pop mainstream, and his later releases haven’t been as much to my taste. His next album was Blondes Have More Fun, when he got caught up in the disco craze, and kind of invalidated himself for me! From the late 60s on he made a string of great albums, and then ‘showbiz’ got to him. FAFF reached #3 in the UK albums chart, after his five previous albums were all #1s – I rest my case!

As I have done a couple of times before, I wanted to include a bonus track for you this week, in addition to the ‘official’ two. This one is much more recent, and is by a singer-songwriter I really rate. This is beautiful, and incredibly powerful:

That is from Brandi Carlile’s 2018 album By The Way, I Forgive You. She isn’t the most prolific of artists, but has six very good solo albums to her name, as well as her recent collaboration with Amanda Shires, Natalie Hemsby and Maren Morris to form The Highwomen. If you need an introduction to them, I strongly recommend the YouTube video of their version of Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain on the Howard Stern show: it is stunningly good.

That’s about it for now. I’ve managed to badmouth drunks, the British press and Rod Stewart, so I think my work is done for another week. I’m hoping that things here will, in the main, continue to be restrained and that all the good we’ve done by being in lockdown isn’t undone by a minority of idiots – covidiots, as they’re known here. Stay safe, keep well, and take care. ‘Bye until next time 👋

Tuesday Tunes 15: Bye Bye Lockdown?

In many countries the lockdown is beginning to be relaxed with, it has to be said, rather mixed results. In the US, which to my eyes bears the dubious distinction of being the only country to have handled the pandemic more ineptly than us, many states have done the Numpty’s bidding and opened up again rapidly, with some dramatic resulting increases in new cases. But hey, what are a few plebs’ lives when there’s money to be made? I know that these are incredibly difficult decisions to take, and I wouldn’t want to be the one balancing the saving of lives against the need to restart the economy, and what that means for employment and general wellbeing. But as so little is still known about this virus I would have hoped that caution might have been exercised, both on the part of governments and their populations. Sadly, that doesn’t seem to be the case, and I suspect that we may not be over it yet, hence this week’s theme: Bye Bye Lockdown? Note that question mark, it is important.

Here in the UK you could be forgiven for thinking that our lockdown is already over, judging by the news coverage of rallies, protests, and huge numbers flocking to the beaches during the recent good weather – but with lavatories not being allowed to be open I hate to think what the state of the seawater was like. So, our lockdown is not yet over, but you could be forgiven for not noticing.  Shops and public places have been gradually reopening over the past couple of weeks, but the real changes for most of us don’t even come into effect until this weekend. This will see a significant relaxation in the rules about meeting people outside and inside your home, and will also permit the reopening of pubs, restaurants, cinemas and theatres. In keeping with the whole process so far, the rules are complicated and, in some cases, downright stupid: theatres can reopen, but are not allowed to hold live performances in case anyone gets spat on. Likewise for live music, as it is of course a well known fact that musicians take great delight in spitting on their audiences to share their germs: the Sex Pistols have a lot to answer for!

So, having chosen my theme for this week, how could I find a couple of tunes to illustrate it? On the one hand, there is the aspect of our new freedom, while on the other there is the continuing need to exercise caution to help prevent a second wave of the virus. In true British compromise spirit I decided on one tune for each. It’s probably a good thing that I’m not running the country with decision making abilities like that, but I’m not, so you can all breathe a huge sigh of relief – into your mask, of course. This week’s first tune is the one that goes down the ‘let’s all have a good time’ route, and is from one of my favourite bands: The Darkness. They get a mixed press, and are often deemed not to be ‘cool,’ but I think they make some of the best rock music in this country. They also make superb videos, not taking themselves too seriously, as this one demonstrates. It has a bit of an intro but stick with it – you’ll laugh, I promise:

That track was released as a single, ahead of its inclusion on the band’s third album, Hot Cakes. Surprisingly to me it was their first single not to chart, but I think that may have had more to do with the band having been on a five year hiatus than anything else. Justin Hawkins, the band leader, said this about it at the time: “We wanted to write the world’s simplest, dumbest rock song. It’s harder than you might imagine. Songwriting is like catching butterflies. If a big dumb butterfly isn’t flying past when you’re sitting there with your net, you aren’t going to catch one.” I think it’s rather better than that!

This week’s second tune takes the other route: the need for caution. You have probably gathered from what I have already said, in this post and others, that I am very wary of things being done too quickly. As well as in the US, lockdown relaxations in other countries, such as Germany, Singapore and China, have caused a spike in new cases, and here we have the city of Leicester being put back into quarantine just as the rest of the country is released. I’ll be honest: I’m scared of what may happen, and will be venturing out even less than normal till I’m confident. I’m still some way from needing to cut my own hair, and online shopping does just about everything else I need! So when I saw that another of my favourite bands had recently released a song called Caution it seemed a no-brainer for today:

Whilst the lyrics talk about ‘throwing caution’ there is, I think, an underlying sense that he is trying to get out from what has been holding him back, even though caution may be the better option. The song is going to be on The Killers’ new album, Imploding The Mirage, which is now due (after some delays) for release in December, I think. I for one can’t wait! Like The Darkness, The Killers have also had periods of hiatus in their 20 years together, but it’s good to see them both back with new music. This will be The Killers’ sixth album, which by a neat piece of symmetry (coincidence?) matches The Darkness, whose sixth album Easter Is Cancelled was released last November.

That’s it for this week (back to the regular two tunes!). I hope that by next week events will have enabled me to feel more confident about coming out of lockdown, and I hope that, wherever you are, the same will be true for you. Take care, stay safe, keep well.

Glastonbury For Geriatrics

Those of you who know how much I love music may be surprised to know that I once wrote a piece which wasn’t all that complimentary. Three years ago today I shared my ‘joy’ with that year’s Glastonbury Festival, which was belatedly saved for me by one of the bands playing there. This year’s version would have been taking place this weekend and, in its absence, the BBC has being going overboard in sharing again some of the highlights from previous years. I challenge you to read the piece and guess how many of these I have watched!

This is the post in question. Answers on a postcard, please:

WHEN THE WHEELS TOUCH GROUND
It is an obvious truth that none of us has ever been older than we are today. But do we always feel our age? Over recent months I’ve been ill a fair bit, and have been feeling way short of my best, but that had never made me feel old. But, last Friday, I did. The reason for that is shown in this post from my Instagram that evening:

For anyone who doesn’t know of it, Glastonbury is the biggest music festival in the UK. It began in 1970, when it was more of a hippy trip than a fully blown extravaganza, but has grown to the point where it sells out 200,000 tickets at around £200 each, within hours, and without having announced any of the acts who will be playing. I guess the punters want to be there so much that they’re happy to take the risk that over six stages and four days there will be something to make the financial investment worthwhile, not to mention the privations of living in a tent in what are usually fields of mud – though not this year, as the weather gods smiled.

In all honesty, I’ve never really been a fan of music in the open air. Call me a boring old traditionalist, but there is something about an indoor venue with good acoustics which I find unbeatable – for me, it isn’t the same when the music just wafts away into the air. The nearest I’ve ever got to a festival was the Isle of Wight in 1970 – the UK’s answer to Woodstock from the previous year. A group of us had planned to ride our motor scooters to the festival but in the end it didn’t happen. I think it was something to do with our mums finding out! In the mid 70s the local council in Harlow, where I lived at the time, ran several free concerts in the Town Park. I remember seeing Thin Lizzy there in 1975, Fairport Convention and (ahem) Mud in 1976 – we only went to see Mud as the DJ between acts was the guy who we’d had at our wedding the previous year, honest! After that, memory is a little hazier, though I think we saw the Glitter Band (without the disgraced one) and the Real Thing, amongst others – my ex-wife’s musical taste was a lot more pop-oriented than mine! There were also rumours that an up and coming band called AC/DC were going to play, but that may be apocryphal and they didn’t show up anyway. It may have been the acts we saw, but for most of the shows I found myself people watching, and as the music was far from memorable my view of open air concerts had been set in stone in the canyons of my mind (bonus points if you get that reference!)

But I digress. Back to Glastonbury last weekend. Although I’ve long felt that the festival has moved miles from its roots and is now no more than a giant moneymaker, paying the bands far less than they would get elsewhere because they know it looks good on their CV, the television coverage by the BBC has expanded too, and I usually enjoy some of what they offer. So, as usual, I tuned in last Friday. My first thought was that the presenters were awful. Firstly, there was Jo Whiley, who was wearing a dress made out of those silver wraps they give marathon runners after a race, set off by a pair of off-white baseball boots and black ankle socks. She’s only 51 after all, so maybe she hasn’t fully developed dress sense yet. And I found her giggly school kid act too much to bear. With her was a guy who looked like the love child of Julianne Moore and Mick Hucknall – to my eyes he was a bearded hipster twat. I couldn’t find a sick bag, but was relieved when they actually stopped gushing and telling us how ‘awesome’ everyone was (how I hate that word!) and played some music. Firstly, Kris Kristoffersen, whose songs I’ve enjoyed for many years. Sadly, he was showing every one of his 81 years, and looked and sounded awful. I tried their other channel, which was showing the band Elbow. To be fair, I’ve never understood their popularity, and this performance did nothing to change that: feeble vocals, over tuneless dirges which all sounded the same and dragged interminably. But Jo and the Bearded Twat told me that Elbow were, you guessed it, awesome – so I began thinking that maybe it was me. It was at that point that I took to Instagram. Maybe you can see how I felt, and there were still two days of potential disappointment to come!

I know, I can hear you saying it was my choice to watch and I could have switched over, but the event promised so much and there is that feeling of not wanting to miss out on the good bits. So, like a hapless victim, I tuned in again on Saturday. I saw some of the sets by the Kaiser Chiefs – always fun – and Katy Perry – one of those pop acts that I think shouldn’t be there. Not really my cup of tea, and not a patch on Lady Gaga when she played there some years ago – she really does know how to put on a show wearing silly clothes! For me, the main attraction was always going to be the Saturday headliners: the Foo Fighters. They aren’t to everyone’s taste, and you need to switch off the swearometer when Dave Grohl speaks, but boy do they put on a show! Two hours twenty minutes flew by in a flash, and suddenly all was right in my Glastonbury world again. Sunday was a bit of a let down, though – Barry Gibb was passable, the Killers a little off par, and as for the headline act – Ed Sheeran – sorry, but I just found him incredibly tedious.

I’ve looked at the BBC’s website to catch up on acts I missed, but there was nothing that really took my fancy. So, that looks like that for another year – well, two actually, as 2018 is one of their ‘fallow’ years when they give the Worthy Farm cows a chance to recover from their deafness. But at least I have the memories of Saturday night. They even played this one, which they don’t always do, and as it is my favourite of theirs that was a real bonus:

As the man says, ‘when the wheels touch ground’ you’re ready for another round in life. And as I’ve often said that music possesses restorative powers, I’m happy to confirm that I’m not feeling quite so old any more 😊