And not that you needed it…

…another reason to hate the Parent Television Council.

currently playing: Joy Division — Atmosphere

Day 6: I Don A Pair Of Zip-Up Boots

Rachel StevensSome Girls

You have to feel sorry for the BBC sometimes; they seem to have bad luck in choosing charity records. Most of the time, they’re just dull and inoffensive (e.g. the latest Girls Aloud effort), but every so often, they manage to choose rather inappropriate songs. The Children In Need cover of Perfect Day, with all its heroin allusions, is the classic example, but this year’s Sport Relief single has to be the most unlikely charity record ever.

You have to wonder whether anybody listened past the glorious sparkly-sheened Gary Glitter stomp and paid attention to the lyrics. At all. It’s the story of a girl desperate for fame, and the things she’s willing to do to achieve her dreams (Let’s just say that “the champagne makes it taste so much better” is probably the dirtiest line you’ll have heard in a Top 40 hit this year, and leave it at that, shall we?). And it doesn’t seem to be going well, by the time the song reaches the breakdown:

Hey, Stop You made a promise to make me a star You made a promise I’ll get to the top You made a promise to make me a star You made a promise I’ll get to the top

There’s so much going on in this record; throw-away lines like “he likes to put his own records on”, the electro-house backing track, the expert use of “hey!” as backing vocals, and the nagging question of whether Stevens realises that, from a certain point-of-view, the song refers to her, whether during her Simon Fuller days (I’ve heard stories), or teaming up with hot producer Richard X for this track. Mind you, I wouldn’t care if it the song wasn’t the classic that it surely is. So congratulations to the BBC for encouraging children to sing about the joys of the casting couch…

currently playing: New Order – Procession

Day 5: Three Chords In Your Pocket Tonight

Courtney LoveMono

“Did you miss me?”

Of course we did. Although we are a little worried about you. Calm down a bit; have a cup of tea now and again. Ignore the idiots who think you’re the Yoko Ono of their generation. Look after yourself, and keep coming back every couple of years with another album. Even if half of it turns out to be rubbish, a meta-rock-pop half-stroke of genius like Mono makes it all worthwhile…

currently playing: Delays — On

Interlude: The Star Wars Holiday Special

Today, then: a bootlegged copy of The Star Wars Holiday Special. Broadcast at Christmas on CBS in 1978, it has never been shown legally anywhere ever again. Only bootlegs exist, and George Lucas is on record as saying “if I had the time, I’d get a sledgehammer and destroy every copy in existence.” This, then, is scary territory indeed.

We begin; the first unsettling thought - they didn’t even splash out for the title scenes, instead having a cheap-looking “a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away” slapped on-screen.

“introducing chewbacca’s family” with his son lumpy. HIS SON LUMPY.

It’s a wookie situation comedy! Lumpy is carving an x-wing. I’m really hoping for subtitles. But no. It’s the family life of a suburban wookiee family. And even wookiees aren’t allowed to eat between meals. Please tell me it isn’t an hour and a half of wookiee noises.

Aww, they miss Chewbacca.The little one is excited about something. They’re playing things on the holographic table.and right about now, you realise just why this has been erased from the official history. THEY’RE WATCHING A HOLOGRPAHIC CIRCUS. While a synthesiser is horrendously abused in the background. NO KITTY IT’S MY POT PIE! Lumpy is Cartman, I’ve decided.

Ooh, is that the plot coming back? Oh god, it’s Luke. Mark Hamill seems to be wearing a lot of make-up. “Come on, Marla, let me see a little smile!” It’s a wookiee! How can you tell!?

We’re now in a shop. It’s like Clerks! For The Imperial Guard Who Has Everything. But the shopkeeper is a Rebel spy! With a sophisticated code of “It was made by hand. SOLO!” And now Imperial shaving techniques.

Oh dear, back to the wookiess again. Star Wars cookery? “Bantha Surprise?” The horror. And it’s not being played for laughs, it really is a whole cooking segment. And the cook has three arms.Make that four.

Back to Han and Chewie for a bit of action, stolen from the original film.

The Empire has declared the Wookiee planet under martial law. Perhaps they saw the cooking segment. Now the wookiees are getting presents from the shopkeeper. Lumpy seems to have got an Atari 2600. And another has been strapped into what looks like an electric chair, but it’s apparently some sort of virtual reality device. PEOPLE ARE SWIMMING THROUGH SPACE. A virtual woman is now sweet-talking the old wookiee. I’m sure this is against the law, and just plain ewww. And now she’s singing. Complete with dodgy 1970s compositing effects to duplicate her across the screen. Really, mere words can’t convey how creep and sick and wrong this scene is.

Now onto C3PO and Princess Leia. I’m sure Carrie Fisher’s drunk. She almost tripped over when walking across the set. Amd I don’t want to know what a wookie-ookie is.

Han and Chewbacca have landed on the Wookiee planet! But no! Stormtroopers have taken over Chewie’s house! But they’re pacifying the troops by letting them watch Jefferson Starship. One of whom seems to be singing into a lollypop. But the guard is digging it! I’m hoping for a Stormtrooper hoedown by the end. When it ends. Oh,sweet blessed relief will soon be upon us.

And now a cartoon? A rather odd cartoon, in which character models seem to be a rough guide, rather than something to be adhered to. Boba Fett! Who…doesn’t act like any other incarnation of of Fett that we’ve seen before. Oh, it was a double-cross. And the animator didn’t like Harrison Ford’s face. Wait, was that supposed to be an ending?

Imperial dudes wrecking the wookiee’s house! It’s a heartbreaking moment; Lumpy’s bantha toy has been broken in two by Empire forces. Those scumbags. And now he’s watching an instruction video. A freaky instruction video; making a transmitter has never been quite so scary. Or long and drawn out.

Bea Arthur as a bartender! No, just no. And now she’s singing. I am never going to get rid of the mental scarring.

SHOOT HIM! SHOOT THE WALKING FLUFFBALL! Han saves the day! Lots of hugs.Ford has this look of “PLEASE! SOMEBODY RESCUE ME FROM THIS TERROR!” But Han has now gone, so we’re left with the wookiees. Oh please, no. wookiee on wookie action!

All the wookies are walking through space into a ball of light. And R2D2 and C3PO have turned up. With no explanation. Oh, and here comes everybody else. CARRIE FISHER HAS JUST BROKEN OUT INTO SONG. KILL US NOW. THEY’VE DISCOVERED WORDS TO THE STAR WARS THEME. This has gone beyond strange and into the stuff of nightmares.

I will say, though, that it makes The Phantom Menace look like The Godfather in comparison…

currently playing: Monaco — What Do You Want From Me?

Day 4: T-Mobile Calling

A little tired and, to tell the truth, annoyed at the person who just sent almost 150 spam comments to the blog, so this entry will be fairly short.

ManitobaCrayon

Because of a very stupid lawsuit (a man called Handsome Dick Manitoba sued for trademark infringement), Manitoba is now known as Caribou. But I’m still calling him Manitoba, because it was a dumb lawsuit. Anyway, this is from his Up In Flames album, and is a splendid piece of twee-dance. Okay, now I have to beat myself with hammers for using the term ‘twee-dance’. If you’ll excuse me…

THWACK THWACK

currently playing: The Waitresses — Christmas Wrapping

Day 3: The Morning Call Has Been And Gone

The Divine ComedyCome Home Billy Bird

Included here because it’s a fun tale of a business man desperately trying to get home, with a sweet twist at the end that makes you go “awwww”.

And yes, backing vocals by Lauren Laverne do go a long way in making this song one of my favourites from this year. Shut up. For 2005, I suggest we kidnap her from the Orange Chart Show or whatever it’s called, and lock her away in a studio until she records a full-length album.

I do not have a Problem.

currently playing: Life Without Buildings — PS Exclusive

Day 2: You're Daydreaming Through Another Winter

Saturday Looks Good To MeLift Me Up

The worst thing about falling in love with a band is when they release the next album. What you want is to get the feeling you got from hearing that first album again; you want more of the same. Sadly, this just isn’t possible. Even if most bands didn’t tend to move in new directions with each album, you can never get that feeling back again. It might be better, it might be worse, but it can never be the same as that initial listen. A good example of this is Saturday Looks Good To Me’s Every Night. I know that, technically, it’s a better album than All Your Summer Songs. but it will never occupy the same place in my heart as their 2003 album. It was a soundtrack for the last few months at UNC; Meet Me By The Water accompanied me to Washnington D.C, Ultimate Stars followed my wanderings around the Pit at 15:20 each weekday, and Last Hour was playing in my head when people started driving away and when I had to say goodbye to eveyone. As much as I like Every Night, it can never be quite as special.

Still, Lift Me Up, my favourite track from their new album, is a wonderful reminder of why I fell for them in the first place. Motown by way of a thrift-store; layers of hand-claps, guitar, horns, and a marvellous organ that sounds as if it has been locked away in a garage for thirty years. And you know I’m a sucker for female singers (quick game for everybody to play at home! Guess how many records in this round-up feature female vocals?), especially ones who sing on indie-pop records. It’s bouncy, fun, and features both the threat of shooting down helicopters and the use of the word ‘taxidermist’. Quite splendid.

currently playing: Heavenly — C is The Heavenly Option

Day 1: I'm Addicted To You, Don't You Know That You're Toxic?

Britney SpearsToxic

Can’t Get You Out Of My Head’s evil older sister; That was all about the gentle “na-na-na-na-na” which seemed so innocent when your first heard it, not realising that you’d find yourself repeating it in mixed company over two years later. Toxic is all about the screeching violins, almost atonal, jamming into your head like knives — repellent but yet somehow utterly compelling (almost, if you will, toxic. ahahahaha). Britney’s voice is battered, abused, and twisted through a host of different vocal effects, coming out of the speaker in a 441kHz burst of energy; something now, a song that represents what the 21st century can offer. Pop didn’t eat itself after all; it decided to feast on the avant-garde instead. Who knew that Cathy Dennis would end up being one of the greatest pop writers of her generation?

Oh, and you can dance to it. Badly, of course, but it’s very danceable…

currently playing: The New Pornographers — Your Daddy Don’t Know

Advent Plans

The idea is this: for each day of Advent, I reveal a song that I consider one of the best of the year, and go on about it for ages. Or at least a paragraph. You get to join in by insulting my taste in music, or complimenting it (but I’m guessing more of the former!). If you want, you can offer alternatives as well. It’s going to be fun!

No, really, it is.

I’ve compiled the list (in no particular order), and I have to warn you now: if you were expecting a lot of rap or hip-hop, you’re going to be disappointed. Eminem and Usher just missed the top 25…

currently playing: Eminem — Mosh

Bring Your Record Player And Your Raincoats 45s

Following on from last week’s announcement of record music sales (still, the BPI insists that suing its customers will make for even better business in the future), and today’s release of what is likely to be the biggest single since Candle In The Wind, the BBC has today axed Top of The Pops. Oh, sure, the announcement says that it’s a move, but it’s going to a new day, a smaller channel, and will undergo a reformatting. After forty years, TOTP is dead.

Top of The Pops began in 1964, broadcasting from a converted church in Manchester. It was commissioned for just six weeks, but was so popular that its run was extended indefinitely. The format was simple; bands would come into the studios, perform their latest record, and the finale of the show was a countdown of the Top 10, before the UK’s number one single was played to finish the show. It was presented, by four DJs: Alan Freeman, Pete Murray, David Jacobs, and of course the always-scary Jimmy Saville. In 1967, production moved to London, and the presenting cast was swelled by the DJs of the newly-formed Radio 1 station.

There are many things that TOTP is famous for; the ridiculousness of Pan’s People, Nirvana’s performance of Smells Like Teen Spirit, Jockey Wilson as the background to the Dexy’s performance of Jackie Wilson Says, the KLF appearing as monks with rhino horns attached to their heads, Oasis’s woeful attempts at miming, and of course, some classic presenter moments such as these from the John Peel / Kid Jensen era:
Well that was the best song I’ve heard since…well, tea time. Mind you, I had a late tea.
And that was Bon Jovi - “You Give Music A Bad Name”.
In case you’re wondering who this funny old bloke is, I’m the one who comes on Radio 1 late at night and plays records made by sulky Belgian art students in basements dying of TB.

And who can forget the fateful day when Mark and Lard were allowed to show their faces on television before the watershed? Children still scream in terror.

In the 1990s, the show began to lose its way somewhat; a misguided attempt to instill a sense of ‘real music’ saw a ban of mimed performances, which meant that many acts would not appear on the programme (happily, this state of affairs didn’t last too long, by 1995 miming was allowed again). The rise of satellite TV its multiple music video channels probably didn’t help either. It was moved from its comfortable slot of Thursdays at 7:00pm to Friday at 7:30pm, where it found itself competing against Coronation Street, the most popular TV show in the country. So it wasn’t too surprising to see audience figures slide down to 3 million by the start of this year. Also, I think I’ve talked about it before, but one of the best parts of TOTP was watching it on Thursday and then talking about it with all your friends at school on Friday morning. I certainly remember having fights over The Bangles and Belinda Carlisle on a Friday breaktime.

The BBC spent the past few years tinkering with the format, adding interviews, news, and competitions (but, not, say, moving it to a quieter night), even completely relaunching the show earlier in 2004. But nothing seemed to work. And now it’s gone. These things aren’t meant to last forever, naturally. But let’s have a moment of silence for the death of Top Of The Pops, a few weeks away from the 1000th Number One of the British chart.

currently playing: Annie — Me Plus One