The Fruitiest Sweet

I loved Spangles when I was a kid, never had that effect on me.

Download: Toot Sweets – Dick Van Dyke & Sally Ann Howes (mp3)

Something for the Weekend

We’re not worthy.

My Mother’s Records

There was a time when a person could look at a picture of some hunky, naked men having a bath together and think it was nothing more than sporty boys having good, clean, healthy, heterosexual fun, and that after the communal bath they’d all head down the pub for a skinful and a fight, then end the evening shagging some bird in a very manly way. Now, of course, it looks like the gayest record sleeve ever, queerer than a nine-bob note, camper than a row of tents, and a masterpiece of homo kitsch. We’re all so damn “knowing” these days, aren’t we?

I really have no idea why my mother owned this record and how it ended up sitting in our sideboard throughout my childhood. Like most Brits she liked bawdy humour and there was a whole series of Rugby Songs albums released in the 60s so they must have been fairly popular, but I can only assume — and hope — that someone bought it for her as a joke. I certainly hope she didn’t buy it herself because she liked the picture on the cover, I’d rather not think about that too much.

Despite the saucy sleeve the record itself isn’t actually that rude (by modern standards anyway) because all the naughty words are bleeped out so it’s more nudge nudge wink wink than truly filthy. While I don’t remember my mother ever playing it I used to play it a lot trying to work out what words those bleeps were hiding. I imagine they had to be very bad to be censored like that and figuring them out was like unlocking another door into the world of grown-ups. Some tracks were rendered almost unlistenable by the constant bleeps but my favourite song “Balls To Your Partner” was easier to work out:

Singing balls to your partner, bleep against the wall,
If you’ve never been bleep on a Saturday night, you’ll never get bleep at all.

Though I was still of an age when I was learning swear words from the older kids in the playground I knew enough to reckon that the first bleep was “arse” (I had no idea what “arse against the wall” meant though), and the second had to be “shagged”. Thanks to the magic of the internets I now know that “Balls To Your Partner” is based on an Irish folk song called “The Ball of Kerrymuir” but I can’t say for sure what those bleeps are as there appear to be several different versions of it. Oh well, guess I can just use my imagination the way I did back then, or maybe in these more liberal times someone will release an un-bleeped version of the album.

Download: Balls To Your Partner- The Jock Strapp Ensemble (mp3)
Download: It Was On The Good Ship Venus – The Jock Strapp Ensemble (mp3)
Download: John Peel- The Jock Strapp Ensemble (mp3)

(Yes, there’s a song called “John Peel” and they’re all performed by a group called The Jock Strapp Ensemble)

Something for the weekend

Oh Boy

I mentioned in this post that I used to work with a girl who knew Boy George in his pre-fame, Blitz Club days. One day she told me that this George bloke she knew had formed a band and put out their debut single called “White Boy” which I should buy because it was really good. I took her word for it and bought the 12″ unheard mostly because, to be honest, I fancied this girl something rotten (she looked like Siobhan out of Bananarama — more on them soon) and would have gladly bought a Bay City Rollers record if she’d told me Les McKeown was a friend of hers if I thought it would get me in her good books — though I think it goes without saying that I got nowhere with her. “White Boy” wasn’t a hit but because I had this record when Culture Club eventually appeared on TOTP with their first hit (and third single) “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?” I was one of the few people in England who didn’t think George was a girl.

I dug it out the other day during a spell of “I wonder what this sounds like now?” with some long-unplayed old records and it sounds pretty good with a similar white boy funk sound to “Chant No.1” which came out the year before. Far as I know this version has never been issued on CD.

Download: White Boy (12″ version) – Culture Club (mp3)

(Photo: “Marilyn and Boy George outside their Carburton Street squat, London 1980” by Derek Ridgers)

What a Drag

Jesus Christ! Superstar!
Walks like a woman and he wears a bra.

Playground song, early 1970s

I once had to wear a dress for a school play though I swear I’m not usually that way inclined (it was Shakespeare! I did it for art!). But if I was I could have had quite a lucrative career in England where we seem to love few things more than a man in a dress. In most countries cross-dressing is confined to kitschy bars in the gay part of town but in England camping it up a nice frock, make-up, and heels will make you something of national icon loved by all the family from Charley’s Aunt to Danny La Rue, Boy George, Eddie Izzard (“I’m an Executive Transvestite”) and Lily Savage — and it certainly didn’t hurt David Bowie’s career. Then there’s the stock English character of the accountant in suburbia who likes to slip into the wife’s little cocktail number and mince about while she’s out down the shops. I’m sure this all says something deeply kinky about us as a nation but that’s a box I’d rather not open.

Probably the most famous pop song about transvestites is “Lola” by The Kinks (English band, naturally) which was given a brilliantly inspired cover by feminist post-punkers The Raincoats in 1979. The idea of Ray Davies’ ode to cross-dressers being performed by an all-girl band constructs such a Hall of Mirrors of gender bending and sexual ambiguity you’d need several PhDs to deconstruct it. It’s like the song itself is in drag.

Download: Lola – The Raincoats (mp3)

OK, I admit it, that dress was really comfortable.

The Dark Side

I was going to defend my choice of this record by writing a thoughtful post about enjoying records that would be considered a bit naff and cheesy by some people, and not in any smug, ironic way either but genuinely and honestly appreciating them as good music. But as I was trying to articulate those thoughts and how they relate to this record I just kept hearing this evil voice inside my head shouting YES! IT’S BARRY FUCKING MANILOW! AND I LOVE IT!! REALLY LOVE IT! I RECORDED THIS FROM VINYL! VINYL THAT I OWN!!! THAT I BOUGHT WITH MY OWN MONEY!!! I LIKED IT THAT MUCH!! WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT? HUH? HUH??? — and I think, deep down, that’s what I really wanted to say.


Download: Could It Be Magic – Barry Manilow (mp3)

Well, hello there!

Would you like some sweeties?

Download: Your Funny Uncle – Pet Shop Boys (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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