Manchester, So Much To Answer For

Even Mike Leigh at his most misanthropic couldn’t have come up with something as grimly excruciating as this. Don’t miss “One of Great Britain’s top recording groups” about 3 minutes in, and stay for Charlie Williams making racist jokes. After that it somehow manages to keep getting worse. 

We occasionally watched Wheetappers & Shunters at home and I don’t know what is more depressing: The show itself or the sad thought that I might have actually found it entertaining.

Fade To Black

Well this was a shock. I doubt if Cilla Black means much to anyone outside of Britain but there she didn’t fade away with her 60s pop hits. When those dried up she parlayed her Scouse charm and gift of the gab into a long and successful television career — at one point she was the highest-paid woman on British television – becoming, in that overused phrase, something of a national institution.

The TV shows she fronted were mostly awful (though Blind Date could be fun) but a lot of her records were terrific and I hope she is remembered more for them. As a singer she wasn’t as great as peers Dusty Springfield, Lulu, and Sandie Shaw, but it was her lack of polish that could make her so affecting: That shaky, off-key quiver she had, the way her Liverpool accent often shone through, and when she had to go big on a song like “Alfie” she sounded emotionally overwhelmed.

I wrote about this song here many, many years ago, and about how my mother used to sing the opening lines to me. It still tears me up a bit because of that, but it’s Cilla’s kitchen-sink realness that makes such a soppily sentimental song so touching.

Download: Liverpool Lullaby – Cilla Black (mp3)

Something for the Weekend

Gilbert O’Sullivan did some naff things (like dressing in that outfit) but this is a beautiful song. I think Morrissey should cover it.

People still dress like that up North, right?

Conversations With a Working Man

This is almost 45 years old but sadly could have been filmed yesterday, and I don’t just mean that Yorkshiremen are still always complaining. If anything, working people seem to be going backwards economically these days.

The saddest part though is that his ambition for his daughter doesn’t go beyond hoping she grows up to be a “glamour girl” and some “fellow with a Jaguar” will come along and marry her into the middle class. I hope that would have changed a bit at least, even in Yorkshire.

Not had any Reggae here in a while, this is from Johnson’s 1984 album Making History.

Download: Wat About Di Workin’ Claas – Linton Kwesi Johnson (mp3)

It’s Pretty Oop North

I’ve heard it can be anyway. Being one of those Londoners who got a nosebleed (and cultural panic) if he ventured north of Watford I couldn’t tell you myself. Short trips to Manchester and Newcastle are my only experience of that part of the country.

This is a really gorgeous track by British folky Catherine Howe from her “lost” 1971 album What A Beautiful Place. Apparently it’s about her hometown of Halifax which I’ve never been to either, but I doubt if it’s as pretty as this song.

Download: Up North – Catherine Howe (mp3)

Not a lot of people know that

I was watching Get Carter the other night and got to wondering what happened to the actress Geraldine Moffat (her in the knickers above) who played the gangster’s floozy Glenda. When I was a kid my mum had a paperback of the novel it was based on which had a film still of a naked Moffat on the back that really, er, grabbed my attention as that sort of thing does at a tender age, so my memory had a bit of previous with her.

She only made a handful of films and did some telly like Coronation Street and The Sweeney, then got married and had two boys who grew up to found the videogame company that created Grand Theft Auto (and apparently she appears in version 5 of the game) — which all seems very appropriate considering her character in the film takes Michael Caine for a wild drive in a Sunbeam Alpine and comes to a watery end in its boot.

Get Carter is a great film of course and it also has a great soundtrack: Classic 70s crime-film music, all funky bongos, bass, and organ, with a cold-as-ice harpsichord.

Download: Get Carter – Roy Budd (mp3)

Thursday Night Fever

This clip goes so far beyond so-bad-it’s-good territory it enters new dimensions of kitsch that are beyond human comprehension.

Soul Power UK

This is a terrific short documentary with great archival footage about the British soul scene from the 60s to the 80s, part of a series of films about British youth culture directed by Don Letts for Fred Perry.

The differences between the scenes in the North (thumping beats, practical clothes) and the South (slick Jazz-Funk, fashionable gear) seem like cultural cliches of Hard Northerners vs Soft Southern Pooftahs but are actually mostly true in this instance.

The soul scene in the South hasn’t been written about nearly as much as the one oop North — a reversal of the usual media prejudice — but it was just as vital and more modern in outlook so it’s nice to see it given some proper respect in this movie. My earliest clubbing experiences were at the Lyceum in London in the late 70s with soul-scene legends Steve Walsh and Greg Edwards DJ-ing. The place was packed with Soul Boys (and girls) wearing t-shirts emblazoned with the name of their local posses like Streatham Funk Patrol and blowing the whistles that hung around their necks. While the clothes were important — this was the era of Pringle jumpers and Lois jeans — there was no posing going on, everyone was too busy dancing.

Here’s a Brit-Funk classic from those days featuring the amazing bass-slapping fingers of Mr. Mark King.

Download: Love Games – Level 42 (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




Follow me!

For Hire