The Voice of Yoof



Something Else was a great show (The Specials!) but this comes across at times like a parody of “Yoof” television. It’s all a bit earnest and awkward and that twat in the pajamas (who the hell is he? I have no memory of him) is, I assume, an “alternative poet” or something equally embarrassing. The footage of different youth cults is terrific though.

You might recognize the chap in the purple suit, three years before he became world famous.

New Monday



Being rather big Saint Etienne fans around these parts (maybe you noticed) we’re well happy about the single “Tonight” — their first new record in seven years (what have they been doing?) — and the arrival of a new album “Words and Music by Saint Etienne” in May. It’s the sort of classy dancepop they do so well and a celebration of the joy of a night out in a great city. In this case the city being London of course.

Londoners watching the video can play a game of Spot The Location too. I was particularly happy to see the sign for Soho pizza joint Lorelai, one of my favourite “secret” places for cheap food in the West End. Not many gaffs like that left in Soho now, I still mourn the loss of The Pollo Bar.

Something for the Weekend



The English language is a wonderful thing but I’m having trouble finding the words that can really express how truly, insanely, off-the-hook, happy-face-making, dog’s bollockingly great this is.

My Mother’s Records


My mum liked what I think of as “grown-up” songs, ones where the subject matter was adults doing, um, adult things instead of the usual wide-eyed, adolescent innocence of most pop songs — records like “Me and Mrs. Jones”, “Love Won’t Let Me Wait”, and “Harper Valley PTA” which weren’t about holding hands at the bus stop but dealt with infidelity, sex, and being a single parent. Another big favourite of hers was “Behind Closed Doors” by Charlie Rich from 1973 which, you know, wasn’t about two people going home to play table tennis. Besides the sublime melody and production a big part of its appeal was Rich himself: the big, burly “Silver Fox” with the soulful voice who sounded like he’d been around the block a few times and taken a few punches along the way, but his woman letting her hair down made him glad to be a man. What woman could resist that kind of bruised poet?

Download: Behind Closed Doors – Charlie Rich (mp3)

But there was a lot more to Charlie Rich than smooth MoR ballads loved by mums which I found out for myself back in the 1980s when, loving his voice and wanting to hear more, I started following the dusty, overgrown trail that led from “Behind Closed Doors” back to his brilliant earlier recordings. At the time Rich was semi-retired and mostly forgotten so I thought I’d found the best-kept secret in popular music because it was literally like discovering another Elvis – one who had the voice and looks (plus genuine musical and songwriting chops) but hadn’t blown his talent on shitty records and movies and cheeseburgers.


If Rich sounded like he’d been around the block a few times it was because he had, having spent years making records that no one bought and jumping from label to label. He started his career back in the 1950s at Sun Records but, with only a couple of minor hits to his name, had to wait until the 1970s before his big breakthrough singing string-laden “Countrypolitan” love songs which must have been a bittersweet pill to swallow as he preferred Jazz and Soul to Country — so even when he finally became famous it wasn’t for what he preferred doing, no wonder he started drinking heavily.

Those years of struggle and not-making-it probably inspired his wife Margaret to write the beautiful, heartbreaking “Life’s Little Ups And Downs” which should bring a lump to your throat, a tear to your eye, and a shiver to your spine. If it doesn’t then there’s a black chasm where your heart should be. This is the track that really turned me on to his greatness.

Download: Life’s Little Ups And Downs – Charlie Rich (mp3)


His apparent “problem” making it big early on was that he didn’t fit into any one box and wasn’t just a little bit Country and a little bit Rock n’ Roll, but also (more than) a little bit Jazz, and a little bit R&B, Gospel, and Blues too — sometimes all in the same song. His 60s recordings are particularly eclectic, ranging from hip-shaking groovers like “Party Girl” (my personal favourite) and “That’s My Way” to Jazz-Gospel-Blues ballads like “River, Stay ‘Way From My Door” — the common denominator being Rich’s soulful voice and rolling, jazzy piano-playing.

Download: Party Girl – Charlie Rich (mp3)
Download: That’s My Way – Charlie Rich (mp3)
Download: River, Stay ‘Way From My Door – Charlie Rich (mp3)

Having spent most of his life as the poster boy for unappreciated genius Rich finally got the recognition he deserved before he died in 1995 — better late than never I guess — and now he’s not such a big secret. A friend of mine called him “the introvert’s Elvis”, the King of that alternate pop universe we music geeks wished was real, the one where all the “right” people are famous.

Buy: “Behind Closed Doors” (album)
Buy: “Feel Like Going Home: The Essential Charlie Rich” (album)
Buy: “It Ain’t Gonna Be That Way: The Complete Smash Sessions” (album)

New Monday



I have a love-hate relationship with Sleigh Bells. One the one hand I love their catchy tunes, fun image, and cute lead singer, but their records are so brutally, viscerally NOISY — full of shuddering jackhammer beats and screeching metal guitars — that my aging ears can’t handle it so I also hate them for making me feel old. Which I guess is what proper modern pop music should do, ancient farts like me aren’t supposed to like it. So then I sort of love them again for making records I have a hard time with. It’s complicated.

Their latest single “Comeback Kid” is relatively easy listening for them, sounding almost at times like Katy Perry singing with My Bloody Valentine or something, but from what I’ve heard of their new album “Reign of Terror” they’re still a band that make you bang a broom on the ceiling and tell them to turn the bloody racket down. Which is good. And bad.

Something for the Weekend



Watching the Grammys on Sunday night they did their usual “In Memoriam” thing about the people who’d died recently and in among Whitney Houston, Etta James, Amy Winehouse, Dobie Gray and all the others there was Andrew Gold. That was a shock because I had no idea he’d died. Why didn’t someone tell me???

I wouldn’t claim that he was some kind of musical giant or anything but this was/is one of my favourite singles of the 1970s.

Picture Post


Oliver Reed: One of the few men who could wear a shirt like this and still look like a hard bastard.

Download: Baby It’s Cold Outside – Joyce Blair & Oliver Reed (mp3)

The Last Shop Standing



Discovered at It’s Nice That, this trailer for the documentary “Sound It Out” about the last record shop on Teeside (“I tend to sell a lot of hard music, but it’s a hard area”) which has just come out on DVD. It looks wonderful and right up my alley, pity it’s only out in the UK though.

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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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