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

A Quick Question

If you’re spending the next hour downloading an MPEG version of a bad VHS-copy of a late-night ITV music series that just happened to follow Kenickie around on their final tour, does that mean you have a problem?

currently playing: Kenickie — And That’s Why

Gwen & BeMusic Productions

Gwen StefaniWhat You Waiting For (remix)

Gwen Stefani’s latest single, What You Waiting For sounds like a clock to me; a carefully constructed mechanism where everything has been carefully slotted into place to make a bouncy Europop song. This Jacques Lu Cont remix is what happens when the mechanism begins to wind down; the quartz crystal jumps to a different beat than the Universal Time of the original. Large swathes of Electronic’s Getting Away With It seem to be pasted over the melody, which is no bad thing either.

Gwen Stefani and Bernard SumnerThe Real Thing (iTunes link)

This is from her new album as well, and sounds as New Order-y as something very New Order indeed. Not just because Bernard supplies backing vocals, or the sound of the synths that sound as if they’ve come straight from the Haçienda; even the lyrics sound familiar, with the oft-repeating Barney trick of rhyming ‘away’ with ‘stay’ (No-one ever said he was the best lyricist in the world). Oh, and Peter Hook plays the bass. So if you are in any doubt about whether I’m writing a load of rubbish (er… — Ed.), go to 2:40, and listen as the vocals drop away to reveal Hook beneath, if you haven’t noticed it already. Oooh, there’s a new New Order album out next year. Can you tell I’m excited?

currently playing: Beth Orton — She Cries Your Name

Picture Time!

The extent of my abilities with Illustrator:

currently playing: Sleater-Kinney — #1 Must Have

The Staging Area!

Next week, this will all be on the house…

Turkey Boo

Let’s celebrate shipping off our religious nut-cases overseas! It didn’t come back to bite us at all…

(Happy Thanksgiving, America!)

currently playing: 52nd Street — Cool As Ice

You Can Compliment Me With Links

The film I’m eagerly awaiting at the moment.

Eeeep. When mobile phones go bad!

Fun radios!

The Secret Version of To Kill A Mockingbird.

A very strange Japanese comic with disappearing schoolchildren and a huge whale.

Also! Colin Powell in “huge pot calling kettle black” incident.

currently playing: Mercury Rev — Goddess On A Hiway

Learn To Become Invisible With HP

A slight downside in that it needs to work with compatible cameras. If you don’t fancy waiting for that, then get yourself a laser pointer and disappear into the red.

I don’t know; is telling people how to avoid CCTV detection a terrorist offence yet?

currently playing: Gwen Stefani — What You Waiting For (Jacques Lu Cont remix)

More Songs In The Key of Chapel Hill

These two songs come from the same night, the always-entertaining WXYC 80s Dance at the Cat’s Cradle. Feather boas, legwarmers, and glitter abounded, but here’s two songs that I’ll remember from back then:

Modern EnglishI’ll Melt With You

Despite it being over twenty years old, I hadn’t heard this until the night itself. Modern English were originally a punk band known as The Lepers, but exposure to Joy Division led to their first album under their new name (1981’s Mesh & Lace) becoming a downbeat post-punk gloom piece. Happily for all concerned, they had all bought themselves a big ice-cream by the time 1982 came around, so After The Snow wasn’t quite so goth. They still couldn’t find any success in the UK, but I’ll Melt With You became a huge hit on American radio, even ending up as part of the soundtrack to Valley Girl. The single stalled just outside the American Top 40, but the infectious hooks and glorious “mmm mmm mmm” finale meant that it stayed inside the hearts and minds of young Americans everywhere. So, hurrah for America for loving a song which we didn’t! That doesn’t entirely let you off the hook for Clay Aiken, but it’s a start.

(the version linked above is the 7” remix, which is what I think they actually played at the Cradle, whereas I only have the album version at the moment. The only difference seems to be louder synths on the single)

LazyboyUnderwear Goes Inside The Pants

Strictly speaking, I didn’t hear this at the dance, as it’s a new song. But! I did hear it on the night itself, when Laura and I were heading out to Wal-Mart at 3am to buy white trainers. What? Anyway, this song came on the radio, and we sat in the parking lot cracking up as it got funnier and funnier. A withering spoken-word attack on the Western World as it is in 2004. Remember the great Obesity Epidemic of 2004, my friends…

currently playing: ABC — Tears Are Not Enough