Something for the Weekend



Bold choice of Gary Numan to release a moody, violin-driven ballad with no actual chorus as a single from The Pleasure Principle but this still got to No.6 in the UK charts. Clearly the man could do no wrong in 1979, at least as far as the record-buying public were concerned.

Though it’s probably hip to like Numan now a lot of people thought he was a bit of a joke at the time (myself included), but this is one of his records (along with “Down In The Park”) that I loved even then. Terrific video too, looking very analog retro-futuristic now.

Dear Smash Hits


I may have mentioned before that I once had a letter printed in Smash Hits. I don’t have the issue anymore and for some reason I only recently thought about searching through the archives at the terrific Like Punk Never Happened blog to find this major event of my youth. Here it is, from the March 6th, 1980 issue:


I was 17 when I wrote that, and while there’s no denying my teenage passion, my prose style could use some finesse (no change there). I remember being shocked — and then thrilled of course — that they’d actually published something I wrote. It was the first letter on the page too which made me doubly chuffed.

The Pretenders had only just become stars with the chart-topping success of Brass In Pocket but I’d been a fan since their first single so was smugly protective of them in the way only a I-liked-them-before-you-did fan of a newly-popular band can be. I was totally smitten with Chrissie Hynde too, so when this C. Wills fellow expressed his (still) idiotic opinion in this letter I was moved to defend her from the “blinkered” opinions of the unthinking masses in typically self-righteous teenager fashion.

I’m not entirely sure why I included The Police in my angry denunciation of “narrow minded hero worship” but they had also recently made the leap from minor act to big pop stars and I guess I must have been a bigger fan of theirs than I remember.

I am rather proud of the fact that I stood up for “real” women in rock music, though my feminist credentials are somewhat tarnished by the fact that I had one of those awful “sexy” posters of Debbie Harry on my own bedroom wall at the time, so I don’t know what I was being so high and mighty about. That last sentence is pretty good though, and I still think anyone who doesn’t love Chrissie Hynde’s voice needs putting away.

What’s most interesting to me is that this is the authentic voice of my 17-year-old self. My mother was an inveterate chucker-away of things and I never kept anything either, so I have nothing that I wrote (or drew) in my youth — no school essays, no diaries, no notebooks, none of the comics I created — so this might be the only thing written by the younger me that still exists. Reading it now is like some Back To The Future moment where I’m confronted by a teenage version of myself. It was so long ago I don’t know that kid anymore, but I do recognize the smug, superior tone common to teenagers with opinions they think are the absolute truth. It could be worse I suppose, while I was certainly too harsh on Debbie Harry (she was no bimbo) I should be thankful that I’m not expressing any of the really stupid opinions which I know I had back then. Thank you teenage me, for not embarrassing your future self.

Not using my real name was obviously a ploy to make me seem far cooler than I was.

Download: Tattooed Love Boys – The Pretenders (mp3)

Something for the Weekend



Two of the best singles of the 1980s performed live in one video. Bargain!

Something for The Weekend



“The Lionel Bart of the Seventies”

Something for the Weekend



Discovering a Pauline Murray clip I haven’t seen before always makes my day. Finding one where she’s singing the gorgeous, ethereal “Dream Sequence” is even more of a treat. One of the great singles of the post-punk era I think.

Off The Shelves


The Saturday job I had in the record department of the Putney WH Smith in the late 70s might not have been as hip as working at Rough Trade or Groove Records, but the guy who ran the department was a serious music geek as were the kids I worked with and we stocked plenty of Post-Punk and Indie records, and had a good section of 12″ singles. There were three independent record shops on Putney High Street at the time (three!) and we considered them our competition, not Woolies or Boot’s.

The naff brown blazers and ties we had to wear didn’t make us look very cool but if you came into the store on a Saturday you’d be just as likely to hear The Jam or Joy Division playing than Neil Diamond or ABBA, much to the annoyance of the store manager. One time he came over when we were playing Gary Numan’s The Pleasure Principle album and said “Take this off and play something more popular!” to which one of the kids snarkily replied “Actually, it’s Number One at the moment.” First time I ever heard Unknown Pleasures was while working there.

But Smiths were still a “respectable” High Street chain better known for selling books and stationery than edgy records. One Saturday in 1979 a letter arrived from corporate HQ in Swindon telling us to remove from the racks all copies of the debut albums by Public Image and Stiff Little Fingers as the company would no longer be selling them — in other words, they were being banned.


The letter never gave any reason (it may have actually been two separate letters at different times, my memory is hazy on that point) but it wasn’t hard to figure out why they considered SLF’s Inflammable Material so controversial with it’s abrasive songs about the Northern Ireland conflict. We were a little puzzled about the Public Image album, but decided that it was down to the “sacrilegious” song “Religion” which would probably still ruffle a few feathers today.

The strange thing was that both albums had been out for a while, the Public Image album was nearly a year old, so this was a case of shutting the barn door after the horse had bolted. I can only imagine that the old duffers who ran Smiths were a bit slow on the uptake, or maybe they’d had a few Mr. Angry letters from outraged customers — I once had a woman return a Billy Connolly album to the store complaining that one of the sketches on it was “blasphemous”. The Stiff Little Fingers ban was obviously blatant political censorship though, the Chairman of Smiths at the time was a chap called Sir Charles Hugh Willis Troughton and with a name like that you can imagine what his political sympathies were. He probably went to public school with half the Thatcher cabinet.

I don’t remember any of this being in the news back then, not even the music press who you think would be outraged at the establishment once again banning rock records, but the whole event seemed to be unnoticed except for those of us who worked at Smiths.

Smiths doesn’t sell music anymore (neither does any other High Street store) and now John Lydon does butter commercials while Stiff Little Fingers are on the punk nostalgia circuit. But there was a time when they were considered an affront to the decent law-abiding citizens who popped into Smiths to get their TV Times and the latest Barry Manilow album. You can’t say this about a lot of music from back then, but these records do still sound confrontational. Still worth banning, really.

Download: Religion II – Public Image Limited (mp3)
Download: Suspect Device – Stiff Little Fingers (mp3)

Something for the Weekend



One of those songs you can hear a million times but never fails to be less than glorious. Who among us doesn’t still love to sing the “Space travel is in my blood” bit?

This is a rather scorching live version too.

Something for the Weekend



Like every John Peel-listening Indie kid in 1979 I bought a copy of this single (still have it!), had a crush on lead singer Ramona, and had no idea what she was singing about.

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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