New-ish Monday



I’m a little late catching up to Courtney Barnett but considering how old I am it’s a minor miracle I even know her name.

Courtney is a young Australian lass who came to the world’s attention last year with two EPs of Lou Reed/Bob Dylan-esque guitar pop full of lazy melodies and off-kilter, quirky lyrics (“Avant Gardener” is about having an asthma attack.) A few months ago the two EPS were collected together and released as The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas and it’s all rather wonderful so you should get it.

Something for the Weekend



I know Bruce isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but there might be something wrong with you if this record doesn’t make you want to tear your clothes off and sing along at the top of your lungs — preferably while standing under a corner street light at night in the rain.

Posted in honour of the USA qualifying from the Group of Death to make the next round of the World Cup. There’s something wrong with the natural order of the universe when America is better at football than England.

Early Doors


Well, that didn’t last long did it? England were barely in the World Cup long enough for you to read your special issue of the Radio Times.

Despite the early exit I’m not as depressed as I was during the last World Cup where we got past the group stage but were so dismal it was almost a relief when we got knocked out. This time we actually showed glimmers of playing decent, attacking football. Not much to cling to, granted, but I’ll take it.

I’ll still be keenly watching the rest of the tournament of course and there are a few other teams I’d be happy to see to do well, but if it’s a Brazil v Germany final I may find myself overwhelmed by indifference.

But while we might be rubbish at football not many other countries can make records as great as this. No small consolation, that.

Download: Say Hello, Wave Goodbye (12″ version)- Soft Cell (mp3)

Something for the Weekend



I dressed a lot like Edwyn Collins back then. I had the vintage shirts, the bootlace tie, the Chelsea boots, the haircut. But somehow I never looked as cool as him.

World Cup Fever


If you think I’m going to be writing blog posts when I could be watching the World Cup you’re out of your tiny mind, especially when the tournament has gotten off to such a great start. Despite England’s loss Saturday it was the best World Cup performance from them in years so I’m optimistic about their chances too. So for the next few weeks don’t be surprised or upset if I only communicate via photos and videos.

If you look at any footage or photos of the 1966 World Cup (like the above) you’ll see that nearly all the England fans are waving Union Jacks instead of the Cross of St. George, but now the situation is reversed with the latter being flown almost exclusively. Euro ’96 was the first time I really noticed the change and I’m wondering if someone took England fans aside and informed them than the Union Jack was the wrong flag or are there cultural and political reasons for it. There’s probably a very good blog post to be written about that and I’d have a go at it myself if, you know, I wasn’t too busy watching football.

Something Brazilian is probably appropriate right now, a sweet swinging number by the great Elis Regina that should have you doing more stepovers than Ronaldo.

Download: Bicho Do Mato – Elis Regina (mp3)

Something for the Weekend



A little Tracie bonus for you, singing a song written for her by Elvis Costello. One mark of a great songwriter is the quality of the songs they give to other people and this is top class.

Any British men of a certain age watching this will be letting out a wisftul sigh.

The Girl That Paul Built


When Paul Weller broke up The Jam in 1982 they were the biggest band in Britain which gave him a lot of clout to do what he wanted. Besides forming The Style Council, he had a go at being a pop mogul by starting his own record label called Respond and put an ad in Smash Hits looking for a girl singer to join this Motown-wannabe of his. One of the young hopefuls who answered that ad was 17-year-old Essex girl Tracie Young — or Tracie! as she was initially known on her record sleeves – who made her singing debut on The Jam’s final single Beat Surrender.

Like Joanna and Susan in The Human League, Tracie was an “ordinary” teenage girl (who could sing) with the appeal of the pretty local lass who had a Saturday job in Boot’s and danced around her handbag at the High Street disco in the evenings. While you probably wouldn’t attempt to chat up Kim Wilde at a disco — too cooly Bardot glam — Tracie was a girl you might fancy your chances with. On Top of The Pops she looked like the siren of the Sixth Form in her denim jacket, pencil skirt, and white high heels and was voted “Most Fanciable Female” in the 1983 Smash Hits readers’ poll.


She was no shrinking violet pop puppet though, and had a row with Weller over his production of her records, especially The House That Jack Built which he sped up and put a lot of tinny synths and drum machines on. He wanted her to sound like a modern pop star, not “a little soul girl” in his words.

While I agree with Weller, the production was a bit naff but that didn’t stop her first two singles from being hits. Unfortunately the other acts on Respond like The Questions and A Craze didn’t do so well and by the time Tracie’s debut album Far From the Hurting Kind came out in 1984 she wasn’t having hits either and it only got to #64 in the charts which is a real shame as it’s a rather good album.

Download: Soul’s On Fire – Tracie (mp3)

With the lack of hits Weller lost interest in Respond and the label went belly up in 1986 leaving Tracie at Polydor where she recorded a second album No Smoke Without Fire which was never released. Pop career over, she had a family and then a second life as a radio presenter.

But last month — huzzah! — that second album finally saw the light of day a mere 30 years after it was recorded. I’ve not heard the whole thing yet (hasn’t been released in the States) but I do have extended mixes of some of the singles that are on it. How these weren’t hits is beyond me, Invitation especially shows what a great singer Tracie was becoming. One of the bonus tracks is the b-side curio 19 which takes Paul Hardcastle’s hit and turns it into an anti-vivisection protest song.

Download: Invitation (RSVP Mix) – Tracie Young (mp3)
Download: I Can’t Leave You Alone (Pick n’ Mix) – Tracie Young (mp3)
Download: 19 (Wickham Mix) – Tracie Young (mp3)

Nice to know that Tracie is doing well these days and didn’t become some pop casualty — she was a bit too sensible for that. Some of us are still carrying a little torch for her.

The People’s Poet is Dead


One night in the early 1980s I was having dinner in a restaurant with my Dad when the actor Brian Glover walked in and, being a friend of my old man’s (he played God in the National Theatre production The Mysteries) he joined us at our table.

Glover had recently played a small part in An American Werewolf in London with the late, great Rik Mayall and the conversation turned to The Young Ones which was on TV at the time. Brian asked me, as the official spokesperson for young people I suppose, what I thought of it. Trying to convey just how popular and important the show was to us “kids” I compared it to Top of The Pops because the day after it was on everybody was talking about it at school or in the pub with the same sort of “Did you see THAT?” excitement. Having just started art school I knew real-life versions of Rick, Neil, Mike, and Vyvyan.



The Young Ones was the television equivalent of The Ramones’ first album — an anarchic, out-of-control cartoon — and Mayall was a key part of the British “alternative” comedy generation that did to the bland, golf-playing, Tory-voting comedians on TV what punk had done to dinosaur rock bands: made them look irrelevant, dull, and reactionary. Because of that he will always be cherished by people my age, he gave us comedy that belonged to us.

But he won’t just be remembered for Rick, but also for characters like Kevin Turvey, Jeremy the Beatnik, and of course Lord Flashheart. It takes some genius to completely steal an episode of Blackadder from Rowan Atkinson. This still makes me wet myself.

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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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