One Vision


It’s Eurovision week again! I hope you’ve all got your Eurovision trees up, sent your letters to Father Eurovision and other similar tedious conceits. Now that the Powers That Be have devolved the decision making process back to the people (after the song imposed on us last year scored us a whole five points), we actually stand a chance of getting into double figures this year and the list of the UK’s 20 Greatest Eurovision Entries has been updated accordingly. There will be more Song Contest-related shenanigans later in the week, but for now, here’s a reminder of why Douglas Adams decided that the most offensive swearword in the entire galaxy was “Belgium”.

Collaborations do work: FFS, Edinburgh Festival Theatre, 24 August 2015


I may be wrong, but tonight I got the impression that the Festival Theatre doesn’t usually have much truck with these new fangled “pop concerts”. On the way to our seats in the Dress Circle we were politely but firmly informed by an usher that, for “safety reasons”, the venue has a strict “no standing” policy. I wished her good luck with that and took my seat. The crowd’s appreciation for this collaboration between Franz Ferdinand – one of Scotland’s top indie bands of the past decade or so – and Sparks, legends of some four decades’ standing, would make it a trying evening for the theatre’s unfortunate security staff, more used to dealing with ballet and opera audiences (although some of those Pavarotti supporters could get pretty rowdy back in the day). Continue reading

Queen: guaranteed to blow your mind (but not always in a good way)

Freddie Mercury on stage at Wembley Stadium, 1986

Over the 20-odd years that the classic line-up was together, Queen made such an impact on music that there’s always some tenuous anniversary waiting to be celebrated. So, as this year marks the fortieth anniversary of Bohemian Rhapsody, the thirtieth of the band’s career-defining performance at Live Aid and the twentieth of their final, posthumous album with the legendary Freddie Mercury on vocals, here’s a brief history of Queen’s albums from 1973 to 1995. Although each of the band’s releases has something to recommend it (some more than others, it must be said), as much as I love them I think it’s fair to say that quality control wasn’t always Queen’s strongest point. With that in mind I’ve highlighted the best and worst track on each album and collated them into two handy Spotify playlists: Killer Queen and Filler Queen. Naturally your experience may vary, so no threatening letters, emails or photos of yourself riding a bicycle in the nude, please. Continue reading

Another day, another girl

Lambrettas "Page Three" label

I’m hearing today that The Sun has quietly dropped the idea of decorating page 3 of their “newspaper” with a photo of a lady in the nip. Thus ends a bizarrely British custom dating back to the early 1970s, when standards were different, tabloid papers were strictly monochrome and the printing process distinctly low definition. Even so, the practice of having a topless woman in the paper for absolutely no reason at all was always baffling, and by 1980 there were murmurs of discontent coming from an unexpected source… Continue reading

Do They Know It’s Cobblers?

Do They Know It's Only £1.49?

Oh look, more ill-informed, patronising, manipulative horseshit from Bob Geldof. Apparently just buying the new Band Aid single isn’t enough, now he wants you to keep buying it over and over again.

“In 1984 a single was £3.50, today it’s 99p…That worries me.”

Three and a half quid for a single? In 1984? Where was he buying them, Harrods?

Two points worth mentioning here, I think. Firstly, singles were nowhere near that expensive in 1984. Come on, you could buy an album for only a pound more than that. A 7″ single in late 1984 would have been around the £1.29 – £1.49 mark; a 12″ more like £1.99 – £2.49. Secondly, even if we assume Geldof’s over-inflated £3.50 figure related to the price of a 12″, the only fair comparison would be to the cost of the Band Aid 30 CD single, which will cost £3.99. It’s almost as if Geldof is spouting meaningless figures in an attempt to emotionally blackmail you into giving more money. As if.

Handy hint: you can donate as much as you like to the Red Cross Ebola appeal without having to repeatedly download the single to massage Geldof’s ego. Here’s the link.

Sing when you’re winning

"Back Home" by the 1970 England World Cup Squad

Ever since the English national football team, still flushed with success from winning the 1966 World Cup, decided that their defence of the title would be enhanced by recording a pop single, football and music have gone together like cheese and custard. Professional footballers will insist on making tools of themselves by attempting to sing, rap or just mumbling incoherently in the hope of matching their success on the pitch with success in the charts. It’s not an easy thing to do, partly because the inherent tribalism of football means that while a player may have his team’s supporters on his side, there are countless other teams whose fans wouldn’t touch his record with a barge pole; but mainly because records by footballers are shite.

But can this theory hold true all the time? Are all footballers loutish oafs with the musical talent and sophistication of a warthog on a bouncy castle? What about those who buck the trend, who gave 110% in the studio and got a result at the end of the day? Leaving aside World Cup or Cup Final songs where the whole team reluctantly chants a song in unison, here are five (actually six, but two of them count as one) footballers who released singles in their own right. Will good or bad prevail? Find out in this hastily conceived and ill thought out penalty shoot-out! Continue reading

Top Of The Pops, 14 June 1979 – “When the time was ready, we had to sell the telly.”

Mike Read

You will have seen several of tonight’s songs on last week’s BBC Four showing of TOTP – that’s because the 7 June episode never happened and any recollection you may have of such an episode is a left-wing sponsored drug-induced hallucination. Instead here’s nice, wholesome, family-friendly Mike “Hello chums!” Read who, despite being an active UKIP supporter and the man who famously refused to play Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s Relax, hasn’t been accused of anything actually illegal and so is deemed worthy of your time. The weird thing that happened didn’t happen with the top 30 captions last week was also clearly some kind of coded message to perverts, as this week we’re back with the comforting full-frame images while the old-fashioned values of Sister Sledge’s We Are Family confirm that everything is right with the world. Continue reading

Top of the Pops, 7 June 1979 – What kind of man could I be if I can’t talk about what I see?

New top 30 captions!

Batten down the hatches, the next episode of Top of the Pops is one we’re supposed to be pretending never happened. BBC Four have jumped from the 31st of May straight to the 14th of June with no explanation, filling Twitter’s #TOTP hashtag with “LOL Yewtree” and “Wasn’t this on last week?” tweets. I don’t intend to get into discussions about whether or not the BBC should be writing Jimmy Savile out of history, or even why he was still regularly hosting TOTP in 1979 when he seemed hopelessly out of his depth alongside young guns like Kid Jensen, but it seems terribly unfair for all these acts to have their performances stricken from the record simply because it was Janglebeast’s turn to present the show. Thankfully most of the forbidden episodes were repeated on UK Gold in the 1990s, so copies do turn up if you know where to look. The full episode is online here and there’s an edited version with all traces of Savile removed at the top of this page. The top 30 countup is accompanied by Tubeway Army, like Savile has any idea what that even means, and it’s interesting to note that the layout of the top 30 captions has changed, even if the photos haven’t. Continue reading

Top Of The Pops, 31 May 1979 – There’s a word that I don’t understand.

Paul Burnett

Watch on iPlayer – while stocks last!

This week’s host is Paul Burnett. Who? That’s right. One of the less well remembered Radio 1 DJs of the time, he did the lunchtime show for five years in the late ’70s and early ’80s, so if you were around then you would have been listening to him announcing the brand new top 40 on a Tuesday; you might also remember his Fun At One slot in which he played a comedy record every day at 1pm. If you’ve been following the TOTP repeats since they started in 2011 you’ll also have seen him as one half of Laurie Lingo & The Dipsticks performing their hit Convoy GB, although as the other member was Dave Lee Travis you probably won’t see that again (and if you find the Hairy Cornflake objectionable these days for whatever reason, for God’s sake don’t click that link). Burnett seems to host TOTP roughly once a year, always provoking a flurry of “Who the hell is this?” tweets, so now you know who he is, but this seems to be his last appearance as host so it doesn’t really matter. The top 30 countdown (or countup if you want to be really pedantic about it) is accompanied by Anita Ward’s Ring My Bell, which is on its way up to number 1 so no doubt we’ll hear plenty more of it in the weeks to come. Continue reading