Odds and Sods

March 10, 2011

It’s been a quiet week on the blog. I’m still not over a cold which has transmogrified into an ear infection, and Fairer Votes campaigning is taking up more and more of my time. This weekend I plan a mammoth blog-writing session, but for now here’s a few things I’ve found interesting.

1. I’ve been reading The J-Curve by Ian Bremmer, which is brilliant. More on that at a later date. For now, I want to share with you a fact I found when reading it. 

In 2005 China launched its version of American Idol. It was called the “Mengniu Yoghurt Super Girl Contest”, apparently after the brand of yoghurt that sponsored the show.

What a fantastic name for a show! I don’t know about you, but I feel a much happier, more fulfilled person for knowing that fact.

2. David Cameron was asked on the One Show “how do you sleep at night”?

It’s brilliant telly. The gasp from Alex Jones, and the fact you can see her hands on head reflected behind Cameron, is great entertainment. Her expression clearly distracted Cameron from answering the question too. Marvellous.

3. An MP played air guitar in the Commons this week.

Apparently it’s all the Labour Party’s fault.

“I think this shows Labour’s lack of substance on defence these days, if their only line of attack is about the subconscious finger tapping of a backbench MP,” said Mr Evans.

It was just “subconscious finger tapping” apparently.

4. I’m slightly addicted to this song:

5. Also there is news on what disgraced former MP (gosh it feels good to write that) Phil Woolas is doing now. He’s written a chapter in “The Prime Ministers Who Never Were”, due out soon, about J.R. Clynes.

Secondly, there’s this from Monday:

[L]ast week, Mr Woolas was spotted outside a Westminster pub.

Eagle-eyed Richard Kemp, leader of the Liberal Democrat Group at the Local Government Association and Inside Housing columnist, said: ‘The last time I saw Phil, he was standing outside a bar with a fag hanging out of his mouth and a pint in his hand, and today I saw him with a fag hanging out of his mouth and a pint in his hand and I thought I’d find out what on earth he was up to’.

The answer? Apparently Mr Woolas is selling feed-in tariffs to councils and social landlords. However, no renewable energy firm has seen fit to list him on their website, and he wasn’t contactable to discuss his new job. Odd, that.

So now you know.


Musial Mondays (4) – 15 Albums

September 13, 2010

There is a meme going around at the moment called 15 Albums, in which people have to name, er, 15 Albums that have stuck with them. I got tagged in this note, and here’s my list, along with a song from said album.

1) King of America, by Elvis Costello

This album was the first present my dad gave my mum. It’s therefore one of the most important items of my existence. I genuinely believe that had my parents met a couple of years earlier, and my Dad had bought her Costello’s previous album, the pretty mediocre Goodbye Cruel World instead, I probably would never have been born.

2) The Very Best of Elvis Costello

Strictly speaking, this should be the songs on “Elvis Costello: The Man” which was a VHS (remember them?) that I watched almost every day from the age of eighteen months to three years. All the eighteen songs on it are scattered throughout the two discs. As an Elvis Costello freak, I’d obviously say you should buy all his albums. But this introduction is a good way of seeing which side of him you like the most. My first thought after watching this video two decades later was, “Bloody hell, they all look really drunk”.

3) Get Happy!! by Elvis Costello and the Attractions

The last mention of Elvis Costello, I promise. This kind of obsession is inevitable when you’ve been listening to him since, well, forever. And this album is his finest hour (well, 48 minutes) which means it’s the finest album in popular music history. Check out the dancing on this video:

4) Basher: The Best of Nick Lowe

I found this gem in a charity shop for £2.99. It’s easily the best bargain I’ve ever bought. So It Goes is a wonderful breath of fresh air into anyone’s life. I was hooked on Lowe from then on. Basher is out of print now: buy Quiet Please: The New Best of Nick Lowe for a more complete introduction to the Jesus of Cool.

5) Seconds of Pleasure, Rockpile

Discovering Nick Lowe at the end of first year led me to obsessively seek out and collect any music remotely connected with him. That’s how I discovered Paul Carrack, Graham Parker, and of course Dave Edmunds and Rockpile. A Musical Mondays post on Rockpile is inevitable, and I’ll spare you from a lecture now, but I’ll just say that this is a rollickingly good album. I remember walking around campus listening to “Heart” after first year exams had finished:

5) At My Age, Nick Lowe

This album came out in 2007, towards the end of second year at university. I’m not sure if Nick Lowe has got better as he’s got older, it’s just now he’s a different kind of awesome. At My Age is a collection of wonderfully crafted songs, and here’s one of my favourites:

6) Walk On, John Hiatt

Like At My Age, this album has helped me through some pretty tough times. I was going through a particularly rough patch a couple of years ago, and Walk On – and this song especially - kept me sane:

7) The Picture, Buchanan

Buchanan are a part-time band: it’s a group of school teachers and police officers who play music in their spare time. Officially they are thought to be a “Country music” band, but the mainstream country scene in Britain ostracises them because Buchanan write their own songs: most C and W fans here would rather listen to a bar band play Willie Nelson covers all night. They’ve released three albums, of which The Picture is the best, and here’s a song from it. Check out http://www.buchananband.com for more details.

8) Vauxhall and I, Morrissey

This album always seems to get overlooked in Morrissey’s solo career; not quite sure why, because there isn’t a single bad track on it.

9) Martin Simpson, Prodigal Son

Most of the albums on this list are here because they remind me of times with friends or family. Martin Simpson’s albums are no exception. We will listen to them as we play bridge or are in the car on family outings. He’s exceptional, especially live. True Stories is a great album too, but I had to choose Prodigal Son simply for this song. I defy you to listen to it and not cry.

10) Tom Waits – SwordFishTrombones

This is the first Tom Waits album I bought, and listening to it was like entering another world. It was very different to anything I’d heard before. The funny percussion sounds, and the voice, well, I’ve not read a better description of it than this one: “like it was soaked in a vat of bourbon, left hanging in the smokehouse for a few months, and then taken outside and run over with a car”.

11) Sail Away, Randy Newman

Like Tom Waits, Randy Newman opened up a new world to me. These weren’t just songs about “Girls, Girls, Girls”, these were songs about slave owners, fathers, even a monologue from God. I also share his twisted, cynical sense of humour. This is one of my favourite songs from this album, that sadly has got more grimly ironic as the decades have gone by.

12) ‘Til The Wheels Fall Off, Amy Rigby

Another of my favourite songwriters. I get the impression that Amy Rigby does little more than set her diary down to music, but what a diary it is. This is probably the best break up song ever.

13) As you were, Show of Hands

What do you mean, you haven’t seen them live? Do it, now. Go to their website, find out when they’re playing near you, and book a ticket. Just watch this song first:

14) Home and Away, Clive Gregson and Christine Collister

Two people, one angelic voice, one guitar playing maestro, one brilliant acoustic album.

15) Blood on the Tracks, Bob Dylan

Like Vauxhall and I, this is an album Liam and I would often listen to whilst playing together on the Playstation, Nintendo, or whatever. It’s the only Dylan album I’ve really listened to properly. This song is my favourite from it:


A song to sing

July 7, 2010

It’s late, I’ve had a busy day (helping to film and edit a short film) and after editing said film had a few pints. Drunken blogging isn’t advisable.

But in order to keep up my record of posting daily, thought I’d post this.

It’s “Marie Provost”, by Nick Lowe, a live version of the song you can find on the wonderful “Jesus of Cool”.

Based on a true story, about a once-famous silent film actress who dies in obscurity and is then partially eaten by her dog. A wonderfully written, witty, catchy song. Enjoy!


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