Twisted City by Chris Singleton - album sleeve

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Scouting for Girls...

Well, I'm just back from a well-deserved break in Italy. It was great. Visited an island that had a volcano on it and smelt of farts; went on a trip at sea that involved a small boat, a singing captain and no life jacket; saw a Pizza called 'McDonalds Pizza' which had chips and a burger on it (note: didn't order it, just looked at it). All in all a good holiday.

The one thing I'm extremely glad I didn't encounter was any Scouting for Girls songs. As I lay back on the beach, reading my overpriced international edition of the Guardian and getting a Cornetto all over my chest, I was listening to the stuff that they're currently playing on Italian radio. Much of it was the same as what is dominating the airwaves in the UK right now: Estelle, Duffy, Mark Ronson doing his celebrity karaoke thing - but thankfully there was absolutely no Scouting for Girls.

Clearly the Italians have taste (when it comes to music - we shouldn't forget that they recently re-elected Berlusconi.)

Now, I've been at the receiving end of rock criticism, both good and bad, so I tend not to write blog posts slagging off other music. And I don't want to encounter the inevitable response of 'You're jealous - they're selling more albums than you'. Or the 'You can't argue with popularity' argument. (Popularity is hard to argue with. Mind you, Hitler, Thatcher and James Blunt all enjoyed massive degrees of it).

But I'm sorry, I simply have to make an exception to my 'no slagging musicians off' rule for Scouting for Girls. I can't bear them. It pains me to have to hear them every time I turn on the radio.

In one way, what they've done is quite an achievement: they've effectively released pretty much the exact same single 3 times. And they've got massive airplay on each occasion.

The formula is simple: a tune with one note repeated ad nauseum, some staccato piano, and a pained, earnest voice singing any of the below trite lyrics:

She's so lovely, she's so lovely, she's so lovely, she's so lovely
Elvis isn't dead, Elvis isn't dead, Elvis isn't dead
I miss a heartbeat, I miss a heartbeat...

The band will also stop at various points in each song, and sadly, just as you think it's over and you're getting a much-needed respite from the staccato piano and crap one-note tune, they'll start up again, singing the same crap one-note tune again over a backdrop of staccato piano.

I just don't get it. Or maybe I'm getting old. But I have to say, I think this is the worst band I've ever heard. Westlife appeal more and I bloody hate them too.

But one way or the other, if this continues I'm moving to Italy. If you haven't heard them yet (unlikely), go to Bring earmuffs.



Your very own White Album

I was reading a book recently by a chap called David Quantick called 'Revolution' which is about the making of The Beatles' White Album. It was entertaining, but ultimately not very enlightening, and certainly wasn't in the same league as Ian MacDonald's similarly-formatted 'Revolution in the Head'.

In any event it reminded me that this year is the 40th birthday of the record.

I first heard The White Album in Cologne, when I was 11 or 12. At that point I'd absorbed all the Beatles albums that happened to be in my parents' record collection or which they had copied onto tapes (tapes, remember those?) . They had all of them except The White Album and Abbey Road (more on the latter another time).

We were in Cologne because my parents were during a tour of Europe of sorts - my dad is an academic, and at the time we were driving round Europe in a blue and white VW camper van, stopping off at various university towns so that he could be suitably professorial (I'm sure he would put it differently, but you get the gist). We had stopped off at my uncle Ciaran's place, who at the time was in his mid-20s and living with a bunch of slightly eccentric Germans. One of them had the White Album on a couple of cassettes.

Well God, I didn't know what to make of the album (nor did the Germans when I woke them up with it every morning for a week). I loved 'Back in the USSR', misheard the lyrics of 'Sexy Sadie' as 'Sex is easy' (very exciting that for a 12 year old, I must say), and was utterly bemused by Revolution 9.

And I still don't know what to make of it. There are some fantastic songs on it, but as a whole it leaves me somewhat cold, or bemused. I think that I agree with George Martin's initial assessment, that the band should have opted for what would have been an incredible single album, rather than a double one. To my ears, the record sounds like a load of amazing songs interspersed with a load of bootlegs; indeed, much of the Anthology stuff that came out years later could have happily sat on the White Album - it certainly reminded me of it.

Many will swear by The White Album in its entirety. For those of us who are less gone on tracks like 'Wild Honey Pie' or 'Don't Pass Me By', it presents us with a fascinating (and fun) opportunity: to edit it down, and make our own 'single' album version of it. The idea being to reduce the 30 songs to, say, a more manageable 12-14. After some reflection, here is my perfect White Album - if you've got your own, I'd love to hear about it.

My ultimate White Album:

1. Back in the USSR
2. Dear Prudence
3. Happiness is a Warm Gun
4. Martha My Dear
5. I'm So Tired
6. Why Don't We Do It in the Road?
7. I Will
8. Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey
9. Sexy Sadie
11. Revolution 1
12. Cry Baby Cry

I know, it's sacrilege. But it would have been bloody good, eh?



Like a goat: misheard lyrics

I was on a short break in Kerry recently when I heard a track come on the radio by Sam Sparrow. It was the first time I heard it and I was convinced, listening to it, that he was singing "like a goat, like a goat, like a goat". In fact, he was singing "black and gold, black and gold, black and gold" and the song has since become a bit of a hit.

Which got me thinking about other misheard lyrics. And I did some googling and came across quite an entertaining site, It's an archive of misheard lyrics which takes its name from Jimi Hendrix's 'Purple Haze' track - there's a line in the song where he goes "Scuse me while I kiss the sky", but many people heard it as "Scuse me, while I kiss this guy".

On you can find a veritable treasure trove of misheard lyrics submitted by music fans (mind you, I don't think all of them were misheard, I think some people submitting them are being mischievous, or clearly have very odd ears).

How and ever, some of my favourites from the ones I found on the site are:

  • Robert Palmer: "Might as well face it, you're a dick with a glove" (instead of "might as well face it, you're addicted to love" from Addicted to Love)
  • REM: "Let's pee in the corner, let's pee in the spotlight" (instead of I'm Losing my Religion's heartfelt "That's me in the corner...")
  • Beatles: "Something in the way she moos, attracts me like no other lover" (instead of Something's "Something in the way she moves...")
  • Beatles: "Michelle, ma belle, some say monkeys play piano well" (convinced somebody's having a laugh with that one).
  • JLO: "Don't be fooled by the socks that I got..." (socks instead of "rocks").
All this reminds me of two incidents from my youth. One was singing in a church choir at Christmas and desperately trying to slip"While shepherds washed their socks at night" into the famous carol. And giggling appropriately.

The other was when I recorded a song containing the words "Looking in your dark brown eyes". Back in the nineties, when I was a whippersnapper, I had a Tascam 4-track casette machine which I used to record my "music". It it had fantastic thing on it called 'varispeed' wheel which you could use to speed up songs, and give them some zip. Problem with doing that was that the song didn't just get faster, it went up in pitch dramatically. And it tended to have rather disturbing effects on lyrics: in this instance, it turned "Looking in your dark brown eyes" into "Looking up your dark brown ass".

I, being familiar with the lyric, didn't notice this. But I'm convinced to this day that the girl who I had a crush on, and whom I sent the song to, definitely heard the 'ass' version, and unsurprisingly I didn't hear from her again.

Misheard lyrics can be bad for your love life.



No more beers on the tube

As someone who has done slightly odd things on the tube in the past - I launched an album, played a gig and shot a video on it - I'm sad to see Boris' alcohol ban on the Underground come into force.

It's a typically hypocritical conservative idea. The Tories go on ad nauseum about 'creating a smaller state' and encouraging 'freedom', yet whenever they get their hands on power they have no hesitation in using the state to interfere - in the worst possible way - in people's lives. Rather than use the state to provide useful things that increase people's freedom (like the freedom not to be sick that a a decent public health system provides) they use it to take personal freedoms away - in this case, the freedom to have a beer on the tube.

This ban is not just hypocritical, it's downright daft, because it's probably going to cause more problems than it solves. It's meant to curb anti-social behaviour, but, assuming there's no loutish behaviour involved, there is nothing particularly anti-social about having a drink on a train; that's why train companies routinely sell alcohol on their trains.

From now on, if somebody has a can of beer on the tube, somebody else is now going to have to take it away from that person. And I personally think that taking a can of beer off some one who is intent on drinking it is going to generate a lot more anti-social behaviour than would have occurred had you just let that person get on with it. Particularly if that person is drunk. Or has violent tendancies. Or has violent tendancies when drunk.

The other issue is that people who might have started their night with a beer on the tube may well drink before they get on it - on the way to the station or in a pub. So from now on drinkers may actually be more pissed before they get on a tube - which is actually more dangerous: think of all those drunk people using those big escalators.

All in all the ban smacks of puritanism. It's ill-thought through and is already causing anti-social behaviour...the 'swansong' party for drinking on the tube last night led to four assaults on staff and 17 arrests.

Typical Tory thinking. Or lack of it. And the way things are going, we're going to get a lot more of that kind of rubbish in two years time...


The story of stuff

Being somebody who spends far too much time on the internet, I don't often come across sites that blow me away. But this one did:

Check it out. Make sure your sound is on, wait for the video/animation to load and click play.