Something for the Weekend



Though this was a medium-sized hit in the UK in 1979 it became better known 10 years later when that great brass riff was sampled by S-Express which got to #1. I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that the original is the best.

I love how the guy is playing bongos for what is obviously a synth-drum sound.

Where Have You Gone, Bobbie G?


I just finished reading Ode To Billie Joe by Tara Murtha, a new release in the 33 1/3 series of books. Straying from the template of most other titles in the series, it isn’t devoted to an in-depth analysis of Bobbie Gentry’s debut album but is instead an investigative biography of the reclusive singer who made her last album in 1971 and completely vanished from the public eye in the early 80s.

Murtha has done a lot of digging in archives and spoken to people who worked with her, but with such a big hole at the center of the story — Gentry herself — it has a Rashomon-like quality with people offering conflicting stories and opinions about the singer which only makes her more mysterious by the end. The only thing that seems clear is Gentry was something of a feminist pioneer: writing and producing her own records, and negotiating her own business deals (very successfully), at a time when it was almost unheard of for a woman artist to do so.

It’s a terrific book full of fascinating trivia (I could do without knowing Gentry was a fan of Ayn Rand though) but sadly it can’t answer the really big question: Why did the driven, ambitious, and creative woman capable of writing beautiful songs like this just…quit. As Murtha says in the book, “Only one person knows, and she isn’t talking.”

Download: Courtyard – Bobbie Gentry (mp3)

The Sandie & Mary Chain


I’ve been listening to Sandie Shaw’s 1988 album Hello Angel for the first time in years and it’s way better than you’d expect for the comeback attempt of a faded 60s pop singer. Sandie’s own songs are great and her collaborations with The Smiths got the headlines, but I think the stand-out track is her cover of The Jesus & Mary Chain’s “About You” (with a slightly changed title).

I didn’t pay much attention to The Mary Chain back then so I’d never heard the original before, it’s good but I prefer Sandie’s grander and more emotional version.

Download: Cool About You – Sandie Shaw

Something for the Weekend



The Pretenders were my favourite band in 1979 when this was filmed, even more than The Jam I think. I have a photo of me in my bedroom circa that year and there are three posters of them on the wall, and readers of this blog will know all about the massive crush I had on Chrissie Hynde, even writing letters to Smash Hits in her defense.

I was lucky enough to see the original line-up live in 1980 (with UB40 and Tenpole Tudor supporting) and I will carry the sight of Chrissie swaggering around stage in leather trousers until my dying day. The rest of the band were pretty good too as you can tell from this performance. Decided to post the entire show as it’s all great.

Sleeve Talk


There is some dispute about who originally coined the word “Yuppie” and when, but it first came into widespread use around 1983 and as we all know became one of the defining words of the 1980s: synonymous with “designer” lifestyles, conspicuous consumption, and Phil Collins albums.

But when Heaven 17 released their debut album in 1981 I doubt anyone knew how the decade was going to turn out. That was the year of the riots in Brixton and Toxteth, IRA hunger strikes, unemployment reaching 2.5 million, and Maggie Thatcher being the most unpopular Prime Minister in polling history. Though the wedding of Charles and Diana and the introduction of the Sinclair ZX81 home computer were signs of things to come, it’s fair to say that year the country was still struggling to escape the 70s.

After leaving The Human League, Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh first appropriated the language of big business by giving themselves the corporate-sounding name British Electric Foundation (known by the faceless acronym “B.E.F”), and the sleeve of Penthouse and Pavement presents their recruitment of singer Glenn Gregory to form Heaven 17 as some kind of business merger. The copy proudly declares this to be “The New Partnership That’s Opening Doors All Over The World” in cliched, vacuous marketing-speak, while the power-suited band strike generic stock-photo “business” poses — shaking hands, on the phone — like it’s the cover of a brochure for some dreadful multinational corporation.

The “Heaven 17: Sheffield, Edinburgh, London” logo is apparently a Dunhill pastiche, and the same year those other Left-wing pop intellectuals Scritti Politti were doing similarly subversive, post-modern riffs on luxury brands with their own record sleeves. Heaven 17 took it even further by dressing as businessmen in photo shoots.


While this was all meant as a Lefty piss-take of capitalism and the pro-business rhetoric of Thatcher and Reagan, it turned out Heaven 17 were being unintentionally prophetic in their choice of visuals. Soon the power-suited, hair-slicked-back style of corporate tycoons made the leap from Wall Street and The City to become a mainstream, aspirational look driven by the new breed of go-getting Yuppies. Pop groups started wearing wearing Armani and pinstripes unironically, and the nation’s wine bars were full of young men looking like cut-price Gordon Gekkos in double-breasted suits from Next.

The 1980s ended when the stock market tanked on Black Monday, and coincidentally around the same time Acid House came along and the youth threw away their suits and chinos, and traded them in for dungarees and Smiley t-shirts. Personally I found that all a bit nursery school but it was better than looking like an accountant. Heaven 17 meant it as a conceptual gag but way too many people took it literally.

Download: Play To Win – Heaven 17 (mp3)
Download: We’re Going To Live for a Very Long Time – Heaven 17 (mp3)

New-ish Monday



For such a tiny country Scotland has produced a lot of great bands, particularly of the indie kind, and Honeyblood are the latest addition to that long line. The Glaswegian duo of Stina Tweeddale and Shona McVicar play a more crunchy, alt-90s version of the classic jangly-guitar sound associated with Scottish indie bands but with plenty of the same wit and skill with catchy hooks.

I’m a bit behind the curve with them because this track came out last year along with their self-titled debut album, but better late than never because they’re terrific and so is the album. Highly recommended.

Something for the Weekend



God, this song. Still one of the greatest indiepop odes to swoony young love ever made. An essential inclusion on any mixtape you made for someone you had a crush on.

Kids Today


When you get older it’s common to start thinking that modern pop music is rubbish and the younger generation are more stupid, superficial, and self-absorbed than you were at their age.

I try to avoid doing that because I know every generation thinks the ones after it likes crap music and are a sign that the world is going to hell.

But has the thought ever crossed your mind that for once, maybe, it could be true?

Download: Blank Generation – Richard Hell & The Voidoids

What’s it all about?

The sentimental musings of an ageing expat in words, music, and pictures. Mp3 files are up for a limited time so drink them while they're hot. Contact me: lee at londonlee dot com

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