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.

Happy Birthday, America

One doesn’t have to be a nationalistic, flag-waving yobbo to be proud of where you come from and I do think St. George’s Day should be a holiday in England.

Other countries get a patriotic day to celebrate who they are in their own special way: Americans eat burgers and hot dogs on the Fourth, the Irish throw up on St. Paddy’s (at least the “Irish” do here in Boston), and I’m sure the French act very Gallic on Bastille Day — though being in Paris on that day once it seemed to mostly involve having a massive rave on the banks of the Seine. So I think the English should have St. George’s Day to celebrate themselves by, er…drinking a lot of tea and colonizing a foreign country?

Or spend the day making gloomy post-punk records. We were good at that.

Download: Independence Day – Comsat Angels (mp3)

Under Siege

I live in Watertown, Massachusetts which, as you may have heard, was the centre of a rather big story on Friday. It’s a nice town to live in, not as expensive as (and more working class than) neighbouring Cambridge and Belmont, but close enough to Boston to not feel too much like you’re out in the suburbs.

Very early Friday morning we were woken by the sound of sirens, gunfire, and explosions (actually, my wife was woken up and she woke me) and, putting the news on, realized that some serious shit was happening just a few blocks south of our road and that we weren’t getting back to sleep. Even if we’d wanted to, the helicopter flying overhead and the thought of a fugitive terrorist in the neighbourhood would’ve kept us awake.

By the time the sun came up we also knew that we weren’t going anywhere that day as we’d been told to stay indoors (“shelter in place” was the rather cozy phrase they used) while the police carried out a house-to-house search in a zone around where the second suspect escaped the gunfight.

Luckily we live on the outside edge of that zone so we never had the pleasure of an armoured, quasi-military SWAT team entering our house to search it, but we did see about half a dozen cops carrying assault rifles and wearing bulletproof vests sweep our street — checking cars, back yards, and basement doors. It was very surreal to see something like that through your living room window, from my side of the glass the swiftly efficient way they split up around each house and then regrouped before moving on to the next one was like watching some silent, eerie modern ballet. Being a Brit I’m uneasy seeing a policeman with any sort of gun and to see these guys in our front yard carrying the kind of weaponry they had was entering I’m-in-a-Hollywood-movie territory. Though they were only a few feet away I didn’t take any photos because I didn’t want to find out how itchy their trigger fingers were.

I’d been down to our basement earlier in the day (armed with only a Maglite torch) to check if the fugitive was down there. It seemed highly unlikely, but a lot of things were highly unlikely that day so I thought it better to be safe than sorry no matter how nervous it made me.

The other tricky thing I had to do that day was tell my daughter what was going on. It was easy enough to bullshit her little brother, but there really isn’t a convincing lie when a 6-year-old keeps asking why she can’t go outside to play and why we keep telling her to get away from the windows. We stressed that the bad man was nowhere near us and she was perfectly safe and thankfully she took it in her stride so we didn’t have to deal with freaked-out kids on top of everything else — letting them watch cartoons all day helped a lot.

By early evening they still hadn’t caught him and the lifting of the stay-at-home order was an admission they didn’t think they were going to either. That’s when I started to feel a little anxious at the thought of putting the kids to bed and going to sleep myself knowing that this nutcase could still be out there somewhere. I also didn’t relish the idea of our streets being patrolled by heavily-armed police all weekend — this is Watertown, not Baghdad.

But then, happy at least to be allowed outside, we were on the street chatting with our neighbours when we heard a lot of sirens in the distance and the helicopter overhead getting lower and louder, making tighter and tighter circles. We guessed something was happening but didn’t know where so we told the kids to come back inside with us right away, that was the only time my daughter got a little panicky. Sure enough they’d found the guy and caught him — outside the search zone just like we were, guess it wasn’t that highly unlikely after all. We heard those gunshots too. “Yay! They got him!” my daughter said when we told her. Our very, very, very long day was over.

Friday had been a lovely sunny spring day and we couldn’t wait to take the kids to the playground after they’d spent the day cooped up inside. Typically it was pouring with bloody rain Saturday morning.

Download: Life During Wartime (Alternate Version) – Talking Heads (mp3)

Thanks, America

Americans, do your duty

And do it for Barry O, please.

This has been a party political broadcast by the Deee-Lite Party.

Happy Birthday, America

Today I will be wearing a black armband to commemorate the sad occasion when the United States made the greatest mistake in it’s history. Besides electing George Bush twice, that is.

But I guess they’ve done alright without us. This coming October it will be 20 years since I moved to America and, despite the shortage of good sausages, this is a fine place to live. Though at the time I wasn’t planning on actually moving here for good, it just sort of happened — but that’s a story for another day.

Download: I Like America – Noel Coward (mp3)

Something for the Weekend

I think The Proclaimers are considered a bit of a novelty act in the States because of the jolly, singalong nature of the one-hit wonder they had here, but when they first appeared their decision to sing in their (verrrry thick) Scottish accents felt like more a statement of national identity than a mere gimmick. I loved their first album, especially this song which is as glorious and moving as ever — especially now that I’ve moved to America myself.

American Woman

A long time ago on this here blog I called Jenny Agutter the Manchester United of British totty, the champion of champions who made everyone else look a bit second-division (well, except Barcelona of course but you get my point). To extend the sporting metaphor I think Raquel Welch is the New York Yankees of the American kind (dolls? broads?): the imperious, all-time champ with the most glittering, um, trophy cabinet of them all. And to extend the metaphor even further I would gladly pay money to see the two of them have a fight to decide the world title.

Raquel was my very first celebrity crush, going all the way back to that innocent time in my life when I had no idea what you were supposed to do with girls but was just starting to notice the effect they had on me. My first encounter with her was in One Million Years B.C. which my dad took me to see at the ABC Cinema in Hammersmith (I can’t believe I still remember what cinema it was) but at the time I was too young to appreciate the girl running around in a fur bikini and just thought of it as a dinosaur movie — I’m sure my dad didn’t though. But a couple of years later I watched her 1970 TV extravaganza Raquel! (love that exclamation mark) and for the first time I remember, looked at a woman and thought Cor!!! which is an important moment in the life of a boy. I didn’t quite understand why, but I was so discombobulated by the sight of this fabulous creature I thought I was going to spontaneously combust into a little smoking pile of hormonal ash. Subsequent viewings of Fantastic Voyage and Bedazzled only cemented her legend in my impressionable mind and even now I can’t look at her without turning into that awkward, red-faced kid who hoped his mother hadn’t noticed how silently transfixed he was by the television.

While she might as well have been a goddess from another galaxy as far I was concerned, with her big hair, teeth, outrageous curves, and rocket-powered va-va-voom Raquel was definitively, quintessentially American. That might not seem very exotic now but very few of us had been to the States back in the 60s and 70s so she seemed as unreal and impossibly glamourous as the country itself, a far-away fantasy land that we only knew from television and the movies where everything was bigger, better and shinier. Gorgeous though they obviously were, British sex symbols like Jenny Agutter and Caroline Munro were girls you could almost imagine knowing or at least seeing in real life but they didn’t make them like Raquel ’round our way who looked as if she’d been designed by Boeing and custom-built by General Motors. She could only be a product of the country that gave us the Cadillac, the Big Mac, and the atom bomb.

So on this 4th of July I’d like so say thank you America, and happy birthday.

Download: State Of Independence – Donna Summer (mp3)

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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