Something for the weekend

I’m getting a major “leave me alone you dirty old man” vibe from those dollies that Jimmy Saville is trying to chat up. Especially the last one, she looks like he’s making her skin crawl.

Lucky Dip

Download: Somebody’s Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In Tonight – The Rezillos (mp3)

Maggie’s Millions

In 1972 unemployment in the UK hit 1 million people for the first time since The Great Depression and there was concern that it would cause some sort of social breakdown in the country. By 1980 Maggie Thatcher was Prime Minister and the number had grown to 2 million, and only three years later it was a whopping 3 million. During those 11 years punk had been and gone and we’d had strikes, power cuts, economic crisis, a 3-day work week, riots and a Winter of Discontent – society might not have broken down but it was definitely feeling a bit stressed out and in need of a holiday. But Maggie told us there was no alternative to her tough love and the only advice her Employment Secretary Norman Tebbit had for the unemployed was to get on their bikes if they wanted to find a job. What a lovely man he was.

I was one of “Maggie’s Millions” on a couple of occasions myself in the 80s and though I was only out of work for a few months at the most, being on the dole was a depressing experience. With nothing to do all day and little money to keep yourself occupied, just getting out of bed in the morning can be hard as you wonder what the point of getting up is. But I was lucky, I didn’t live in a town that had its factory or coal mine shut down (or to be in profession that had factories) but up North you couldn’t swing a cat without hitting someone who’d lost their job and their future when England’s manufacturing and industrial base collapsed and died. I didn’t have to choose to cut down on beer or the kid’s new gear either, but there were days when I had to choose between cigarettes and food – I nearly always chose cigarettes, ten Marlboro lasted a lot longer than a meal did.

It says something about how unemployment dominated the landscape that one of the most popular and relevant bands at the time took their name from a form given to people on the dole. When you sign on in England you are given Unemployment Benefit Form No.40 which you have to bring to the dole office every time you claim benefit, this is more commonly known as a UB40. There can’t be that many other bands named after government paperwork and their debut album “Signing Off” had a replica of a UB40 card on the cover.

I had one of these tan coloured ones when I was first on the dole but it was changed to a minty green at some point, they were probably thinking the brighter colour would make the whole unemployment experience a bit more cheerful.

Younger readers might only think of UB40 as purveyors of light, singalong pop-reggae, but before “Red Red Wine” made them stinking rich and ruined them they were a serious, overtly-political band who had more in common with The Clash than Musical Youth, singing heavy songs about being on the dole, poverty and social injustice. Bloody good they were too, “Tyler” is from the debut album and these two 12″ single mixes show them stretching out in a more Dub-wise direction, I don’t know if these are available anywhere but they should be.

Download: Tyler – UB40 (mp3)
Download: I Think It’s Going To Rain Today (12″ version) – UB40 (mp3)
Download: The Earth Dies Screaming (12″ version) – UB40 (mp3)


Oh well.

It’s some consolation that I think we were the better team (and I’m not looking at the game through Blue-coloured glasses) but to come so close and then have the trophy slip away – literally! — was more heartbreaking than if we’d been crap.

This wasn’t the post I wanted to write today, but here’s the record I was going to put with it anyway.

Download: Chelsea Morning – Sergio Mendes And Brasil ’66 (mp3)

I can’t believe that twat Ferguson is saying they deserved to win because of their “history” — what does that have to do with winning a football game? Bloody Manc bastards.

Is she really going out with him?

Have you ever had a mate you secretly thought was a bit of a twat who always seemed to do incredibly well with the opposite sex? In fact, the better he did the more you hated him because it just showed up how pathetic your own sex life was. He’d turn up at parties or the pub with some gorgeous bird in tow and you’d couldn’t understand why she couldn’t see how annoying he was. She seemed like a nice, intelligent girl but you’d start to think there must be something wrong with her if she liked him. Your female friends would assure you it wasn’t true that girls preferred going out with arseholes and liked nice guys really but the evidence you saw with your own eyes was that you were single while blokes you knew to be dickheads seemed to be beating them off with a stick.

Download: What I Like Most About You Is Your Girlfriend – The Special AKA (mp3)

This is such a terrific single it’s a real shame it wasn’t a hit. From The Specials great final album “In The Studio” which they released under their original name and sadly flopped too, I’m not sure it’s even available on CD these days.

Yes, I know Terence Stamp (pictured above in case you didn’t know) is a good-looking chap and probably a nice bloke to boot, but next to the un-Godly beauty of Jean Shrimpton anyone would look like a bit of a shifty meathead. The fact that he dated her makes me not sure whether I should admire the bastard or hate him.

The Iron Nanny

“I think they were absolute fucking scum — especially Thatcher, who I think should be shot as a traitor to the people. I still think that, and nothing will ever change my opinion. We’re still feeling the effects of what they did to the country now, and probably always will: the whole breakdown of communities, trade unions, the working class — the dismantling of lots of things.”
Paul Weller, 2008

Until George W. Bush came along I never thought I could hate a politician as much as I did Maggie Thatcher. All the things I complain about on this blog that depress me about modern England can be traced back to her doorstep in one way or another and we’d be here all day if I went through the litany of her crimes but Mr. Weller’s quote above pretty much sums up my feelings in his usual blunt style. Maggie was the stern Nanny/Headmistress who told us we’d all been bad children in the 60s and 70s and we had to take our medicine no matter how bad it tasted or she’d send us all to bed without any supper — or throw us out of work. Your average English Public Schoolboy gets turned on by that sort of cold-shower discipline which explains why so many chinless wonders loved her, it’s just a pity the rest of us had to take the medicine too. Maggie wanted to re-make Britain and she did, but to do that she had to tear it apart.

As a 20-something student you’d expect I’d be politically involved but it could be a depressing experience in the 80s. I voted for Ken Livingston, Michael Foot, Neil Kinnock and she won every time — though with Ken it wasn’t at the ballot box, she just abolished the GLC instead. I went on marches to save the GLC, in support of the Miners Union and CND, I joined the Labour Party and even took part in demonstrations and a sit-in to save my own college from being merged with another one in the next town, all to no avail. She always won — apart from the Poll Tax of course, I missed that little riot though.

But her biggest victory is everywhere you look in Britain today. It was a bit of cliche on the Left in the 1980s that she wanted to turn the country into the 51st State of America (though that was mostly a joke about her sucking up to Ronald Reagan) but that’s basically what happened, she turned the country over to the free market and big corporations who now dominate the landscape both metaphorically and literally. The rich got a lot richer and everyone else had their jobs, traditions and communities traded away for the price of 24/7 shopping in bland town centres dominated by a few big chains and an entire industry devoted to the worship of wealthy celebrities. The country has become just as soulless, vulgar and status-obssessed as America at its worst. Even sadder, the process has continued and been even worse under a bloody Labour government. Well, she did say there was no alternative.

Though I would like to thank her for all the wonderful music she inspired, without her we wouldn’t have these records (and many, many, many more). Maybe she wasn’t that bad after all. Actually, she was.

Download: Blue – Fine Young Cannibals (mp3)
Download: Homebreakers – The Style Council (mp3)
Download: Shipbuilding – Robert Wyatt (mp3)
Download: Talkin’ Blues (Story of The Blues Pt. 2) – The Mighty Wah! (mp3)
Download: Strike – The Enemy Within (mp3)

The Morning DJ

Can there really have been a time when I thought Noel Edmonds was funny? There must have been because, like a large chunk of the English nation in the 1970s, I was an keen listener of his breakfast show on Radio One which drew in a massive 12 million pairs of ears a week between 1973 and 1978. Back then there was little or no alternative to BBC Radio – even London didn’t get it’s own independent radio station until 1973 when Capital Radio went on the air – but I don’t remember ever feeling particularly deprived because we only had Radio One. Even when I got old enough to realize that Noel, Simon Bates, Dave Lee Travis and the rest were a bunch of twerps with bad taste, there was Kid Jensen and John Peel in the evening to keep me happy. Now we are less a nation together than a collection of different tastes and interests.

Harry Chapin’s “W.O.L.D” only made the UK top 40 in 1974 and I don’t know how much airplay it got at the time. Noel must have played it though, not just because it fit in with his Elton John/Gerry Rafferty-ish soft rock tastes but how could he resist a song written about his job? Chapin is better known for the dreadful “Cats In The Cradle” but this is a much, much better record. It’s about an itinerant disc jockey having a midlife crisis and trying to get back together with his ex-wife. Though it’s a tad maudlin the production is big and clever enough (I love the mock radio jingle touches) to turn this melancholy little tale into something epic and brilliant.

Noel has been through a lot of personal ups and downs himself but got through them by being “Positively Happy.” Not by being a smarmy twat then.

Download: W.O.L.D – Harry Chapin (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