It’s Not (All) About The Farmers

The clocks changed. Here comes festive fun.

The clocks went back last night. Thanks to the marvels of jet lag I missed it and saw no benefit to the extra hour in bed. I’ll spend the rest of the week trying to determine which devices don’t automatically reset themselves and I’ll find my kitchen clock out by an hour until next weekend. Then, when I realise, I’ll struggle to synchronise the clocks on the top and bottom ovens. Admittedly, nothing compared to the 379 clocks that need to be adjusted at Windsor Castle. I wonder who adjusts HM’s bedside alarm clock? Truly, first world problems.

Timezones are fascinating. I’ve spent my life trying to remember if it’s during the ‘spring forward’ phase or the ‘fall back’ time that we don’t adjust the clocks at the same time as my colleagues across the Atlantic. I never remember. But, I think it’s now. I do know that all of our meetings are messed up for a week now and nobody is in the right place at the right time.

I feel that, for as long as I can remember, it’s been assumed that we in Britain change the time because of farmers or school children. Lighter mornings mean fewer accidents, or something like that. It always sounded plausible but I am not sure I was convinced. Today, the Telegraph notes that, back in the early 1900s, William Willett “wanted to stop Brits from wasting valuable daylight hours” by staying in bed in the summer months and introduced the concepts of daylight savings time. So, really, it’s all about combatting laziness (or, to put it another way, our health and well-being). What I never knew was that the concept of British Double Summer Time, helpfully, BDST, was introduced to help save fuel during the post 1940 war years. by making Britain work on a 2-hour offset against GMT. It seems we are always tinkering with time.

Do You Hear What I Hear?

With the nights drawing in and the world donning a Halloween mask, my thoughts turn to Christmas. Although I have not seen that many Christmas treats in the supermarkets yet, I did spend some of yesterday in the local B&Q DIY superstore looking at Christmas lights. As the Most Wonderful Time of Year is rapidly approaching, it’s time for me to start hunting out the Yuletide musical delights uncovered at My Festive Fizzy Pop. It’s a bit of a guilty pleasure. With just 57 days until Christmas, it’s time to start building this year’s playlist of new Christmas music and My Festive Fizzy Pop is the perfect place to start. If you love Christmas songs and have never read the Fizzy Pop festive blog then you should go and do it right now.

I am unashamedly a fan of Christmas tunes. I do, however, limit my consumption to only the newly released songs in November. Come 1st December, however, the Christmas back catalogue will be playing for the majority of my listening hours. Look at my Last.FM stats for 2015 and 2016 and you’ll see the December spikes. Most of these tracks are songs from the my ever-growing festive archive. The most limited version of the archive (which contains the material I will actually listen to) is running at almost 48 hours of total listening time. Better start now.

The year I am sharing the 2017 new Christmas music collection (which is, mainly, new versions of the old songs) via Apple Music. I think you find it here: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/playlist/my-festive-fizzy-pop-2017/idpl.u-d89AZtMG155g

And let me be the first to wish you a very Merry …. (maybe not).

#SOLS

Sermon of the last Sunday is my weak attempt to make sure I a am not thawing the hosting fees for this site away by ensuring there is some new content every month (yes, I’ve turned all modern media and refer to this a content). The #SOLS tag helpful links to the others (although I must remember to go and tag the missing one).

Anything You Can Do

The latest advertisement from Mercedes is one best-timed and well-pitched pieces of advertising I have seen for a long time.

I haven’t written much here for a while. I don’t really know why but I haven’t gone away – perhaps I am just spending all my time moving my Windows Media library across to iTunes. Yes, I gave up and switched to an iPod Nano. And, after all those trials and tribulations with other music players, I am very happy. I even bought the Nike+ kit so that I can track how far I have run at the gym. Seriously, I’ve tried many of the music players and they just don’t have the ease of use and integration that the iTunes has. It’s the seamless interaction that makes it all work so well.

Still, that’s not why I picked up the keyboard today. Earlier I watched the European Formula One Grand Prix; and boy what a race that was. But I don’t really want to talk about the race itself (I am sure you can read all about it here) but I did want to talk about one of the best pieces of advertising that I have seen a long while.

Even if you are not a petrolhead follower of Formula One – and especially if you are British – you can’t have failed to have read some piece about the Championship scrap between Lewis Hamilton and his McLaren team-mate Fernando Alonso.

The latest advertisement from Mercedes (which is of course the team they both drive for) plays on this rivalry beautifully. Anything you can do, I can do better:

I just think the whole thing is really well pitched and they seem to have had some fun making it.

But What Was The Year?

No matter how many times my media player tells me JoBoxers (and their classic, Boxerbeat) is from the 2005 compilation (Teenage Kicks) I know it’s a true pop treasure from 1983 (top ten in February no less).

Oh how I despair at all those compilation cds that are gracing my cd collection. Over the years I have collected a fair few. I think it’s something to do with being a pop fan. True pop is a three and a half minute tune mimed to some falling glitter snow surrounded by Pans People and introduced by The Hairy Cornflake.

To that end, the long player was never really on my turntables as a child. Thus, my musical memories are really quite happily contained across a collection of compilations.  This is all well and good until you come to rip them all so that you can add your youth to your mp3 player. For, lo, compilation cds neither sit well on mp3 machines nor do they rip well. The artist may be in the title box while the artist is just listed as ‘various’. I can live with that (I lie, I can correct that) but I can’t stand that the dates are incorrect. No matter how many times my media player tells me JoBoxers (and their classic, Boxerbeat) is from the 2005 compilation (Teenage Kicks) I know it’s a true pop treasure from 1983 (top ten in February no less). Thus, I must spend my evenings correcting each cd as it gets ripped.

My life will be over before this project is complete. My sanity will be gone sooner. But my mp3 player will know hits of 1978 are very different from those of 2002.

Listen on Apple Music

Memories Of The Walkman

I was a avid singles collector at the time and the little Walkman unit wasn’t ever going to play vinyl 45s. So, at this point in my life I became a compilation tape wizard.

When I was younger my Sony Walkman was one of my favourite things. Today, you would probably think of it as a first generation device but I think this was 1982 and it was a WM-4 (or the like). There’s a picture of it on this page. My brother and I were at an age where we wanted to listen to our own music all the time so I suspect my parents thought it would be a good idea to get us one each so we could listen to our music in the car while they had Radio 2 on. And it stopped the arguments.

I was a avid singles collector at the time and the little Walkman unit wasn’t ever going to play vinyl 45s. So, at this point in my life I became a compilation tape wizard. I would spend hours putting tapes of my records together to listen to in the car. There would be the odd album track from one of my parent’s records but most of the tracks were from those singles of mine.

I would spend hours listening, rewinding, forwarding and listening again to my soundtrack to the 80s. If it had been number one in the charts during that period then it would have been on those tapes.

And so to – what I thought was going to be – the point of this little wander down memory lane. During that time in the early 80s I used to carry a small stock of batteries around. If the Walkman stopped working I just replaced the battery (although I did learn over the years not to use the rewind functions a great deal as they drastically reduced battery life). My cheesy 80s pop was always with me.

Fast forward to 2005. This afternoon I was heading to the gym and thought I’d take my new century Walkman-equivalent with me only to find the battery was drained. Except this time I can’t just swap out the batteries – I have to charge it. So I wasn’t able to walk with my music.

And they call it progress.

On a side note, my parent’s loft probably still houses the Walkman – the cassette part gave up years ago but the radio still works and the stereo sound from it is still one of the best I’ve ever heard. Those 80s hits singles are all stored in boxes in the same loft space but the compilation tapes have long since gone. It would be amusing to try and recreate one of them through the wonders of digital music but I shan’t be setting myself that kind of goal.

Spooky side note. When I wrote the words above I had no idea that the entries on this day in 2004 and 2003 were both – in some way – music related. I wonder was it is about today?

Birthday Boy

Stephen GatelyStephen, it’s your birthday and all of us – by which I mean me – at Hello Curns (the blog for Britain – I’m thinking it might be a good slogan) would like to wish you all the best for the coming year. I’m sure it’s been a fun year – that Child catcher costume alone must have made you laugh each day and, perhaps, put memories of that Technicolor dreamcoat behind you. But when, dear boy (and I say that as a term of endearment rather than as some comment on your person) will you be back in the studio recording some pop tunes for us? I was most disheartened that there was no further material after the last album. Truthfully, I was one of those who thought it was great. So, I don’t think you need any brother-of-some-bygone-popstar to be your new front man. No, stick with the solo material. Oh, and don’t drink too much tonight. Happy Birthday. [Stephen Gately was Man of the Moment at some point in the past when we did that stuff]

And in case that’s not enough, Stephen is 29 and today is Thursday, March 17, the 76th day of 2005. There are 289 days left in the year. This is St. Patrick’s Day [source]

Erasure: The Nightbird Tour

From the moment Andy Bell appears on stage with angel wings you know they are back on form.

erasure_show_logo.gifI’ve seen Erasure a couple of times in concert. The last time was the Other People’s Songs tour. While I enjoyed the album I wasn’t so sure about the concert: they seemed to be going through the motions a little more than previous times. So, it was with some interest that I got by tickets to The Nightbird Tour at Hammersmith Odeon (erasuregig.com).

Andy Bell from ErasureFrom the moment Andy Bell appears on stage with angel wings you know they are back on form. The Nightbird material fits very well into the overall set; the feeling of a ‘show’ is back and the audience was – most definitely – behind Vince and Andy. The first number ‘No Doubt’ leads into ‘Hideaway’ which I don’t recall seeing performed for a very long time and is one of my favourites. But we also got ‘A Little Respect’, ‘Who Needs Love Like That’ and ‘Blue Savannah’ plus a Vince performing ‘Rapture’.

The concerts are recorded so that you can get a copy of the show you went to see. I shall be having one of those for I had a superb time.

Forgotten Projects?

Time to revisit a forgotten project: boybands!

So yesterday’s on this day link took me off on a memorable journey to the Forgotten Project of the ultimate boyband CD – which, as a side diversion, for the stress of my working life at the moment I have decided to invest some time in.

For those of you late to the party here was the aim two years ago: construct a CDs worth of music from boybands of any decade that will go attempt to show that there is some logevity in the product. If you will, it’s an attempt to show that it is possible to have classic tunes that come from the manufactured world of boyband pop. This is what we had last time:

  1. N’Sync – Pop
  2. Take That – Relight My Fire
  3. Take That – Could It Be Magic
  4. F5ive – If Ya Gettin’ Down
  5. Backstreet Boys – Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)
  6. A1 – Same Old Brand New You
  7. A1 – Caught In The Middle
  8. Blue – All Rise

And you are – most definitely – not allowed to call me shallow!

Previously: Ultimate Boy Band CD (1)The Ultimate Boy Band CD (2) Aka The I Am Shallow Project

Madonna

I went to see Madonna at Earls Court.

my ticket to see madonna at earl's courtSo I went to see Madonna at Earls Court.

That statement does not make me a huge Madonna fan – although I am partial to many of her hits and, unlike some of my friends, I think American Life is a great album (then again I also like some of Blue’s material so who am I to judge musical tastes?) and she is most certainly a performer.

So, when commenting on a Madonna concert what should you say? Earls Court is a huge venue. For those of you who haven’t been you should be aware that it’s very stadium-like. We sat in the back left corner so it was like she was at the opposite goal post. And it’s in that context that you will understand why I didn’t think it was that good.

Madonna can put on a show. She is the undisputed queen of showmanship. And therein lies the problem. She performs a West End show of the variety that you need to be able to see. And she performs them at West End prices but to stadium-sized audiences. The audio is show-like and you doubt that she’s singing live the whole time – although I suspect a lot of it is live. It’s just very well produced and sounds like her CDs and, for me, that isn’t the point of going to see live music: somehow you need to believe that they are performing live. Add to that the fact that you can’t see the spectacular and you have a fun but, ultimately, a disappointing evening.

Digital Download Chart

Is the new digital download chart a good thing?

A year ago I wrote about ringtones and the large amounts of money to be made from them (as well as one of the current boyband stars of the time) and asked when we would see the first ringtone only hit? Well, maybe not ringtones but the music download industry in the UK is taking a step towards being able to produce download only hits when Radio 1 introduces the download chart from the start of next month. I think this is fantastic news and I will be interested to see how the record companies react.

Also about a year ago, I wrote about my first experiences with downloading music from the MSN Music Club. Well, I can tell you that a year on I have bought, perhaps, ten tracks – mainly the odd chart hit jumps out at me. I’ve tried several services and find them all a little frustrating in one way or another.

Many download services don’t let you have the latest singles from an artist until they are falling down the regular charts. I assume to this is to ensure that those fans who want the track will actually buy it and contribute to a chart position before the downloads (which don’t contribute to a proper chart position). So, although I do think this chart is a superb step forward, digital music will only be legitimised when it’s included with the full chart.

Maybe in twelve months I’ll be writing about that.

Hi We’re Your Weather Girls

Humidity is rising – Barometer’s getting low, According to all sources, the street’s the place to go.

The Weather Girls,
The Weather Girls said “It’s Raining Men”

I have been recovering from my trip to the USA by spending a great deal of today asleep and generally caching up on the mail, the christmas cards, the washing and all the other things you need to do when you’ve been away for a week. It’s almost Saturday night and I am going supermarket shopping (you see, dear reader, I have a very exciting life).

While I managed to listen to the radio and some CDs I did, eventually, resort to music television so that there were some pictures to provide an alternative visual while I drank my tea (real tea, not a USA-style tea, is one of the greater comforters in my life).

The Hits is showing some so-called classics this afternoon. The video for It’s Raining Men (The Weather Girls) looked so dated that it made me wonder what those brought-up entirely on the sophistication of the modern day music video would make of these dated images.

Interestingly, it occurred to me to that it’s the video that looks a lot older than the music sounds. Allowing for the fact that It’s Raining Men is part of the soundtrack to my youth, I still think it’s the video technology that has made the noticeable leaps in the last 20 years.

And it’s 20 years next March since It’s Raining Men was a hit for The Weather Girls. Originally charting in the UK in August 1983 it eventually made number 2 in March 1984. It’s one of those songs that I would have sworn topped the charts but, apparently, not. I would imagine that a combination of Nena’s ‘99 Red Ballons‘, Lionel Richie’s ‘Hello‘ and Duran Duran’s ‘The Reflex‘ kept it from the number 1 slot.

Disappointing Frustrating

Why is it that it’s always the small stuff in life that is the most infuriating?

Why is it that it’s always the small stuff in life that is the most infuriating?

This morning I thought I would give the MSN Music Club the once over. You’re supposed to be able to download music legally and all that kind of thing. Well, today they did manage to take my credit card details (I signed up for the minimum service) but that’s about all they’ve done. I haven’t actually managed to get a track out of it. It seems to be a permanent error (but perhaps not as big an error as me handing them my credit card details). Obviously, I was also silly to try to access it later in the day with the Mozilla browser.

How disappointing.

This afternoon I rushed home from work to meet the plumber who was coming to fix a new kitchen tap to replace the one that’s been dripping for a year (I know it’s a water-crime but I do have a life to lead). Anyway, he arrived (after I had hauled my ass and walked up the escalators on the tube to make sure I got the right train home) only to leave ten minutes later saying he couldn’t fit the new tap and somebody else would have to come out next week and show him how to fix it.

How frustrating.

On the up-side my Oyster card that allows me to travel on the tube hasn’t yet been erased by my mobile ‘phone despite the fact I keep sticking them in the same pocket.

Silly Pop Stars

Blue’s Lee Ryan has been charged with drink-driving. I should file this under silly popstars, shouldn’t I?

Blue Lee Ryan and Pride in the Park 2003Who’s a silly boy then? With all that fame and money you think Blue’s Lee Ryan would be more careful and pay for a driver, wouldn’t you? If you didn’t know, he’s been charged with drink driving. Let’s hope the adulation is not going to his head and he thinks he’s better than everyone and above the law. Still, another shameless excuse to post a picture (I took this one at Pride In The Park last month).

I should file this under silly popstars, shouldn’t I?

Beep Beep To Profit

There’s a market of over 70 million pounds for ringtones – a figure I find astonishing.

Sometimes, I live in a world of hope and today is no exception.

BBC News reports that sales of mobile ‘phone ringtones are set to overtake sales of CD singles. Ringtones are worth an astonishing £70million, if the article is to be believed, and are highly profitable for the record industry. I wonder if they will now start to realise that there is money in the digital delivery of music and it’s about time that they embraced it fully? I do hope so. Sadly, I can’t contribute their new revenue source as I find those high-pitched beeps trying to sound like a song all too irritating. I accept that’s an age thing. I wonder when – for I’m sure it will happen – we’ll see the first ringtone only hit?

Seven Inches of Joy

Four Minute Warning is in the shops today. But what was the first single you bought?

And lo it came to pass that after years and years of waiting, Mark Owen’s new single Four Minute Warning was released this morning. And, I like it. In fact, I like it so much I went and bought the single – which at £1.99 seems to me to be the right price for a single. While I was stood in Tower Records handing over my two pound coins, it struck me that it has been a very, very long time since I bought a single at all and I can’t even remember what it was.

I can, however, remember the first single I bought. I was around eight years old (back in 1978 which just shows what an old duffer I am) and I desperately wanted a copy of the theme tune to Southern Television’s Famous Five TV series. I had saved all my money (I don’t remember how much it was) and raced around the shops of Wigan for it. Eventually, I found it and must have played it 1000 times that night. I can still remember the magic and joy of that moment.

I wonder if an mp3 of that exists? I still have the vinyl but nothing to play it on!

Pride 2003

For the first time in many, many year, the Pride festival took place in Hyde Park and I was there.

Well despite the weather and the somewhat officious woman searching my bag on entry, this year’s Pride in the Park in Hyde Park was fabulous – the best I have been to (probably ever – although my first Pride on Clapham Common was pretty cool too).

After breakfast at a friend’s house, PY and I headed down to Embankment for the parade. This is the first time I’ve ever marched with the crowd and it was brilliant – the only downside of actually taking part is that you do not get to see it all. In a bid to overcome this, we ran ahead and watched part of the parade (including the fabulous OutEverywhere bus) and then joined in at some point (for a great deal of the time we marched near a float that Josh from a previous Big Brother was prancing about on). The atmosphere was superb and the crowds watching were huge. Coming up to Piccadilly Circus was just a mass of people – it was quite exciting really.

Then we made the park. We made our way to the main stage and seeing Liberty X (who were surprisingly good), Ulta Nate (who sang a whole stack of songs that I was familiar with) and Blue (who were also very good). Later in the day we caught Tom Robinson and Jimmy Sommerville (this after standing on the sidelines singing along to Bananarama – but as nobody has a picture of that I will deny it at a later date).

At some point in the afternoon – just after it started to rain – we had a wander around the market stalls (which seemed more varied than other times) and had a poke in some of the dance tents (although it’s not really my thing). By late afternoon, the rain was pouring but spirits were not dampened (and. luckily, for most of the afternoon the ground in Hyde Park held up).

It was an exhausting day but it was worth it and it was great to be with a bunch of other homos just having a good time. There will be some pictures in the gallery, eventually.

UPDATE: Other sites: