Posts from 13th February 2005

Feb 05

TOM JONES – “It’s Not Unusual”

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#189, 13th March 1965

Tom Jones is clearly well-meaning, approaches his music with unyielding gusto, and has surely done wonders for the gaiety of the nation. But frankly I can’t stand him. A comical background figure in the way that national treasures often are, I didn’t notice him much until his various bellowing comebacks in the mid-90s. Well, I thought, his early stuff was probably alright. I’m still open to persuasion, but the evidence so far isn’t swaying me.

The best Tom Jones song is probably “What’s New, Pussycat?”, which uses his brashness to maximum effect, matches it with a steamroller arrangement and is also happily, entirely ridiculous. I still don’t enjoy it much but I can see what it’s doing. “It’s Not Unusual” has just as much muscle but aside from the closing yelps Jones’ delivery is a one-note bludgeon. Has anyone ever sounded happier singing about wanting to die?

Alright, I admit it, he’s a charismatic bastard and I can only really really dislike him if I work hard at it. And yes, his voice is a powerful thing even if used for ill. But I still come away from his records feeling like I have spit all over my face.

THE SEEKERS – “I’ll Never Find Another You”

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#188, 25th February 1965

Only the flimsiest of efforts made here to disguise the fact that “you” is shorthand for “Jesus”. “There’s a new world somewhere, they call the promised land” – and if that doesn’t tip you off, the stern, sandalled, campfire atmosphere will. This particular youth group leader has a lovely, steely voice, and certainly there are worse routes to redemption available, but after a fine run of #1s this is still too medicinal for me.

It’s fair to say that not many buyers

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 153 views

It’s fair to say that not many buyers of 1,000 UK Number Ones will be as eager as I was, with my not-entirely casual interest. Obviously, I was a little worried: not that I’m seriously planning a book or anything, but a literate, knowledgeable, well-edited and critically acute book on the #1s would dampen my enthusiasm a little. Or would it? Part of the fun of doing Popular is watching a little community build up in the comments box, after all – a lot of the time I feel I’m just lighting the touch paper.

Anyway, crisis averted: Kutner and Leigh take a very different approach. Their book is exhaustively researched and scrupulous in its near-total avoidance of any critical position. I’m not actually sure all the research is right – they point out that “Ignition” and “Ignition (Remix)” are two separate songs and then quote the former’s lyrics – but most entries have a few handy factoids*. I’m impressed by the size of the book – the temptation to write a big old chunk on Bo Rhap and half a paragraph per Westlife hit must be high for this breed of rock journo.

Taken a pinch at a time this is informative (the producer credits are very useful, too) but approached in chunks even my eyes glazed. There is almost no attempt to describe any given song – the dread phrase “upbeat number” recurs – and the writers mix a “just the facts” approach with an jolly style that verges on the Alan Partridge. The need to fill three paragraphs per song means the book is occasionally quirkier than perhaps intended – the Baz Luhrmann entry opens with a history of sunblock.

A couple of times the critical mask slips, notably when discussing the failure of “Vienna” to get to number one, seemingly the pop crime of the century. A savage review of poor old Joe Dolce is followed by vindication and another twist of the knife as Midge hits the top at last. Flicking through the 00s section I caught the wistful authors discussing an unreleased Robbie Williams track which could have been “another Vienna”. Diligent reading may unearth more sightings of this bugbear: I will keep you informed.

(*The single best fact I have found so far is the Labour Party’s decision, with “The Land Of Make Believe” at #1, to issue badges saying “The Tories’ record is worse than Bucks Fizz”.)


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2. T-RAPERZY – “Erodisco”

No, no, don’t tell me, you’re put off by the picture. I quite understand, really. I didn’t know these two gentlemen looked like that either until a few minutes ago. In fact I didn’t know they were two gentlemen. The perils of downloading from P2P almost at random, you know? But from pathetic novelty disco acorns mightly pop oaks may grow, and this record – like the Pipkins, see how carefully I plan these things – has the gruff voice/high voice thing down pat like a vodka-soaked Polish Aqua with a fiddle section to boot. Join in with them – “HA! HA! HA! HA!”

When friends come through

Blog 7Post a comment • 357 views

yesterday I began a little process that is designed to show a dear friend how many people really care for said person. My friend in question needs the boost, to be frank. And what’s nice about all this? That so many of our mutual friends have already stepped up to the plate beyond my expectations, bless their hearts. Sometimes a little encouragement can produce much greater rewards than expected — and no doubt of it, that’s love.

The Oscars might actually be worth watching:

Do You See1 comment • 310 views

The Oscars might actually be worth watching:

At the annual Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences luncheon for nominees on Monday, Oscar telecast producer Gil Cates announced that this year’s broadcast would be as different from previous ones as the controversial Rock is from previous hosts.

In his attempt to save time and “get more of the nominees seen on television,” Cates said that some winners will receive their award from a presenter parked in the audience. In other categories, nominees will be invited to gather on stage before the winner is announced.

If this latter part applies to the acting awards, I for one will be entertained to see four people biting their lips and looking elsewhere and/or at the winner with murder in their eyes.

Reflections on a Valentine’s-semi-themed dinner with friends

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 406 views

Reflections on a Valentine’s-semi-themed dinner with friends:

1) Don’t actually make it a Valentine’s event and it’s *perfect*

2) Leave the only sign of the season to be an absolutely delicious heart-shaped chocolate cake but with two very thin layers rather than some monstrous layers

3) Make sure the chocolate frosting is the richest thing in the universe

4) Created a drizzled-then-cooled layer of melted white and dark chocolate to further cover the cake which has Grand Marnier included

5) Further add strawberries and blueberries

6) Have the rest of the meal be ridiculously good as well, including two pastas, a wonderful salad, excellent broccoli and garlic chicken to die for

7) Enjoy. Thanks guys, you all make our monthly get-together the best (and all I had to bring was the wine!)


The Brown WedgePost a comment • 251 views

by Tyler Anbinder

New York City lore is something I know a bit of but couldn’t care much about otherwise — this is because I’m a horrible person, of course — but more to the point it’s generally alien to my experience. I have my exceptions, though, and sometimes a good book comes along to illustrate some instances. George Chauncey’s Gay New York is a fine example of recent work while this one is even more recent, and vaguely timely given the flirtation of attention with the history of the Five Points neighborhood thanks to Scorcese’s last attempt to get an Academy Award (and also make a movie, apparently).

What’s nice about Anbinder’s study of the locale that informs both the book and movie Gangs of New York, not to mention one of my favorite novels of all time, Caleb Carr’s The Alienist, is that it (self-consciously, to be sure) aims to ‘tell the story right’ — the opening section wants to overturn both the perception of the area as complete sinkhole and the counterperception of it as being not that bad or suffering from exaggerated horror reports. This is hardly a new rhetorical move in any area but Anbinder often — not always, but often — finds just the right way to advance his theses, tying together hard figures and anecdotal tales, review of records and notes where the testimony fails or is nonexistent, to study what in the nineteenth century was practically a byword for poverty, desperation, sin, the whole lot.

And that’s perhaps the best part of the book, that it studies the construction of the image of Five Points, looking at how those perceptions were created and what drove them, how certain elements were exaggerated or reported or more. It’s often smart social criticism in its own way — again, not a revelatory approach but here a well-handled one. There’s enough to give you the creeping horrors (the descriptions of the stifling, stinking tenements are gut-wrenching) and to help you refocus on the place and time (such as the fact that many Irish immigrants absolutely thought that for all of Five Points’ obvious flaws it was still a vast improvement over their situation where they came from).


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Desperate but not serious. It is however extremely funny to realize they’re trying to break America all the more (except much-more-famous-than-the-Stereophonics-Kelly Kelly Clarkson seems to have trumped their chances to hell and back). Do not operate heavy machinery while watching the video.


The Brown WedgePost a comment • 425 views

HIDDEN LONDON #2: Bell Green, Catford

erm i don’t know much more about than that it exists – which i didn’t know even this morning – but on my way through it from bromley back to london bridge my TRAIN HIT A TREE!!

branches on the track! the driver wz able to clear it all himself, so sadly we did not all have to be rescued on one of those little two-man pumping trolleys

(ps everyone wz ok though the small girl sitting opposite said “this is very bad because i need my impatience seeing to”)