League Two Football #12 – Rochdale

As I type my side Gillingham have just won back to back games for the first time in two years.  It was also the first time that they had won away from home all season.   This sudden upturn in form, is thanks largely to some long overdue investment from new American owners.  It has seen Gillingham move off the bottom of the football league, they now sit 23rd in League Two.  The team replacing them at the bottom of the league are Rochdale.   JC, from the new vinyl villain, is a big Rochdale fan and he has been kind enough to offer up a guest contribution on the team this week.  So grab yourself a coffee, get comfy because this is epic – here’s JC.

I’ll begin with a huge apology for the fact that this piece is far too long and self-indulgent.  But I couldn’t do it justice otherwise.

Growing up in Glasgow, I had absolutely no reason to develop a soft-spot for Rochdale AFC, or ‘Dale’ as I’ll call them from now on.  The fact that I did led to a great deal of serendipity in my later life.

1973.  I’d be 10 years old.  For the past four years, my dad had been taking me to watch Celtic.  They were our local team. In fact, I was born in a hospital less than half-a-mile from the stadium.  Celtic in the late 60s/early 70s was an extraordinarily great side who seemed to win just about every week.  I loved it.  But at the same time, there was something in my brain that suggested I should look out for a team that wasn’t so successful. Dale fitted the bill perfectly.

In 1973/74, they were in the old Third Division in England and they ended it, not just rooted in 24th and last place, but miles away from ever being secure from relegation.  The record shows they won just 2 games out of 46.  Until a few months ago, I had no idea just how bad the season was until I read a book called ‘The Longest Winter’ by Mark Hodkinson, a writer and columnist for many years across numerous UK broadsheet newspapers, in which he tells the in-depth story of ‘A Season with England’s Worst Ever Football Team.’  It’s a brilliant read, as much a social history of the decline of the mill town on the outskirts of Manchester as it is about a particular football season.

Dale went down to the 4th Division. They stayed there for the next 36 seasons, the longest any team has ever been in the bottom division of the Football League, and with there now being automatic relegation to non-league level, it’s a record unlikely ever to be broken.

I revelled in the fact that my English team was so bad. Not once did they ever look like getting promoted and more often than not, they had to seek re-election from the chairmen of their fellow clubs to avoid the fates that had visited Bradford Park Avenue (1970), Barrow (1972), Workington (1977) and Southport (1978). It truly was grim up north.

Now to the serendipity.

In 1981, I went to University where I befriended a fellow student on my course called Ronnie Coyle.  I knew of him as he was also a footballer who was on the books of Celtic and had played for their reserve team at the age of 17.  He actually tried to deny he and the footballer were the same person but I wasn’t to be fooled.  We quickly became best friends, albeit Ronnie dropped out at the end of 1st Year to go full-time at Celtic and try and break into the first team. 

He never quite made it, although he played two matches for the first team and captained the reserves to a number of league and cup wins.  In 1987, he decided to leave Celtic and was transferred to Middlesbrough for £25,000.  He couldn’t break up the centre-half partnership at the club which consisted of club legend Tony Mowbray and future England star Gary Pallister.  After a few months, Ronnie accepted an offer to move to Rochdale where he was installed as club captain.  I couldn’t have been happier!

He was only there for a year.  He wanted to come back to Scotland and to marry his childhood sweetheart, Joan, who was now making a career for herself in the lucrative world of medical sales.  He signed for Raith Rovers in January 1988, and within a couple of years, I had given up entirely on Celtic and went to watch the Rovers every single week – something I’m still doing 35 years after he signed.

In November 1994, I went on a long-planned holiday to Antigua with my wife.  Little did I know when the booking was made that the holiday would come to clash with Raith Rovers, who were then a team in the second tier of Scottish football, making it to the League Cup Final where they would play Celtic.  I tried my best to change the holiday, but it was too expensive to do so, and there was no way I could simply cancel it.

These were the days before mobile phones, the internet and fast information about football games being played thousands of miles away.  I took to the Antiguan beach on Sunday 27 November 1994 in my Rovers shirt.  I got speaking to a fellow holiday maker called Ian and explained what was happening.  The only way I could find out how the game was going was to either call back to the UK from the hotel room (far too expensive) or walk about half-a-mile to the nearest bar with a public phone. 

Ian kindly agreed to come to the bar where we spent a late morning/early afternoon with me calling my mum back in Glasgow every 20 minutes or so to ask for progress.  Rovers, in a huge surprise, won the cup beating Celtic on penalties after a 2-2 draw in a game when we scored a very late equaliser.  Ian helped me through that day, getting quietly drunk with me before heading back to the beach where our wives were wondering why we had been gone so long.  My singing from a few hundred yards away night just have given the game away.

Ian was from Rochdale and a regular on the terraces at Spotland Stadium. He remembered my pal Ronnie from his short spell with the club.  It was kind of surreal.

Ronnie, sadly, passed away in 2011 at the age of 46 from leukaemia.  I was one of the coffin-bearers and read a eulogy at the service.  I still miss him every day.  Ian is still a very good friend, and indeed I was his best man when he re-married in his late 60s a few years ago; his first wife Iris, who I had of course met in Antigua, had died very suddenly a from an aneurysm in 2016. 

So that’s why I’ve so much fondness for Rochdale AFC and why I asked SWC if I could get the honour of contributing to this great series.  Again, I’ll offer apologies that it’s such a long read.

Musically, Rochdale is best known as home to Gracie Fields, the best-selling singer of the late 1920s and 30s who also made a name for herself as an actress.  A little-known fact is that she was born as Gracie Stanfield.  Which brings us nicely to the second-best known singer to come out of Rochdale.

Lisa Stansfield – All Around The World (1989, Arista Records, Taken from ‘Affection’)

A #1 hit in 1989. Lisa Stansfield had first came to a wider attention as lead vocalist on this club classic

Coldcut – People Hold On (1989, Tommy Boy Records, Taken from ‘What’s That Noise’)

In a career that was still going as recently as 2018 in terms of new material, Lisa is reckoned to have sold over 20 million albums. 

If you go to the neighbouring town of Middleton, (which forms part of what is known administratively as Greater Rochdale), you’ll find it has been home to some indie bands over the years– The Chameleons, Courteeners and Mock Turtles.  More importantly, it was where the frontman of this lot was brought up.

The Wedding Present – Brassneck (1989, RCA Records, Taken from ‘Bizarro’)

Yup.  David Gedge was born in West Yorkshire but his family moved to Middleton when he was a kid (so he qualifies under the BRMC South Devon Clause – SWC).  I’m sure as a teenager that he roamed the streets of Rochdale looking for things to do, and I’m willing to bet he found his way to Kenion Street.  

You see, there’s a blue plaque attached to a building on Kenion Street, Rochdale.  It informs passers-by that it is the site of the former Cargo Studios, which opened in 1978.  Hundreds of bands passed through its doors over the years, including just about every act to emerge out of Manchester, Liverpool and the wider north-west in the late 70s through to when it closed in 2001, by which time it was known as Suite 16 and was owned by Peter Hook, who happened to play on probably the most famous track ever recorded at Cargo:-

Joy Division – Atmosphere (1980, Sordide Sentimental Records, Taken from ‘Licht und Blindheit’)

For the new music aspect of Rochdale, the best I can offer up is this

The Sprats – Let’s Sail (2022, Unknown Label, Single)

The indie band have been described as potentially the next big thing to come out of Manchester, but two of the members come from Rochdale and two come from nearby Burnley. 

Oh, and back to the football to round things off. 

Dale finally got out of the bottom division in 2010 after 36 years.  It had, during that time, changed its name from Division 4, to the Third Division and then to League Two, but all the while being the fourth-tier of the English League.  The most surprising thing was that Dale got out by winning promotion to League One and not through relegation to the National League.  Dale lasted two years in League One before relegation in 2012 but somehow kept things together to win a promotion back up in 2014.  The stay in League One this time around lasted until 2021, which was unheard of.

It’s been a real struggle over the past two seasons, much of it caused by boardroom shenanigans and what proved in the end to be a successful effort to fight off a hostile takeover where much needed cash for the playing squad was diverted to pay legal costs as it all ended up in court. 

The team got off to a shocking start this season, failing to win any of their first nine games, but began to pick up a bit of form once October came round.  But just as hope seemed to spring eternal, the onset of 2023 has seen Dale fall back to the foot of the table and slipping out of touch with the sides above them. It will be a very sad day if they do go down to the National League (5th tier of English football) given that they have been a constant in the Football League since they first joined in 1921. History shows that clubs the size of Rochdale never find it easy to make their way back, and therefore, I have every right to be worried.

Nearly Perfect Albums – #50

Open Season – Sea Power

Please Stand Up – Sea Power (2005, Rough Trade Records)

When Sea Power (Ok, I’ll deal with this now, they’ve dropped the British from their name.  So I’m not using it) toured their marvellous second album ‘Open Season’ they played a gig in Exeter. That gig culminated with them throwing sticks at the audience, one of which hit me squarely on the back of the head. The band in an act of mischievousness had clambered on to each other’s shoulders and were just lobbing things at the crowd for laughs.  So, I should perhaps, in some form of solidarity to my bruised scalp, hate this record, but I can’t because it is a beautiful record.  It is the bands most accomplished and triumphant record.  But as I am here I’ll also tip my hat in the direction of their debut ‘The Decline of British Sea Power’ and their third ‘Do You Like Rock Music?’ both are also marvellous and both could if I was in a pixyish mood have appeared here.

Midway through ‘Open Season’ comes a track called ‘North Hanging Rock’ which is the absolutely definition of musical serenity.  The song is all piano and gentle sprays of feedback that are accompanied by the twittering of birds and what sounds like leaves being trodden on.  Yan’s vocals are barely more than a pleading whisper as he asks us very politely to

Drape yourself in greenery, become part of the scenery

And it’s beautiful.  I think he’s singing about death but it doesn’t really matter because it’s also part of the appeal of Sea Power, part of their uniqueness.  Birdsong may not be the most rock and roll thing in the world, but when used effectively its amazing and of course its been used by the band because they are not trying to be twee but because they are fans of nature and the countryside.

North Hanging Rock – Sea Power (2005, Rough Trade Records)

Nature and the countryside feature a lot in Sea Power’s records, this one is no different.  Giant icebergs, the Scandinavian Herring Gull, and the American Whopping Crane are amongst the things that get namechecked on ‘Open Season’.  The iceberg (more of an ice shelf really) forms the focus for the second single from the album, ‘Oh Larsen B’ and contains possibly the greatest declaration of nature love ever laid down on wax

You’re fractured and cold, but your heart is unbroken.  My favourite foremost coastal Antarctic Shelf

Oh Larsen B – Sea Power (2005, Rough Trade Records)

But its not all epic songs about icebergs and decaying nature.  There are at least three absolutely epic pop songs that have vast choruses that if I wanted to keep the geography analogy going could be described as being as deep as the Cheddar Gorge. Here’s just one of them, but the other two are ‘Be Gone’ and ‘Please Stand Up’ (which I’ve stuck up the top).

It Ended On an Oily Stage – Sea Power (2005, Rough Trade Records)

‘Open Season’ ends with a sumptuous ballad called ‘True Adventures’ is builds gently and then is slowly eaten up by waves of guitar noise.  It is a terrific way to end an album that is not just stunning, but one filled with optimism, imagination and mystery.

True Adventures – Sea Power (2005, Rough Trade Records)

A Month all about Names – #3 –Betty

Betty – Jamila Woods (2019, Jagjaguwar Records, Taken from ‘Legacy! Legacy!)

In the spring of 1996, I once got invited, over the telephone, by the manager of pop starlet Betty Boo to the launch party for Betty Boo’s third album.  Apparently, Betty herself (or Alison Clarkson as she was formally known as) had hand picked a bunch of student writers to attend the launch party.  I very much doubted that Betty Boo had ever read a word of what I had written, and by hand picked the manager had persuaded the record label to invite everyone because at least then someone would turn up.  Especially if there was a free bar. 

The manager went on, the party would feature a full live performance from Betty and her set would include some old favourites and some new hits, all of which had been reimagined so that they can be played by her band.  By the sound of things Betty Boo had jumped feet first onto the Britpop bandwagon.  It would also have a free bar.  I mean he had me interested in the words old Betty Boo songs reimagined to be honest but ok I’m in.

You can cringe all you like.  If you re-recorded ‘Doin’ the Do’ with three guitars, a rumbling bass, and accompanied them by an occasional fizz of a hi-hat, it would basically sound like Huggy Bear and therefore be greater than anything, yes anything, that had ever previously been recorded in the history of music.

I gently frothed at the mouth at the prospect of hearing this.

Two weeks passed, no invitation arrived, and I thought that perhaps the final touches were being added to what would be the social event of the year.  I crossed my fingers and hoped that Boo would get a move on because I had exams coming up.  A month passed.  Two months.  Six months……

To this day I never heard another word in relation to the third album by Betty Boo.  I always wondered if perhaps someone found the invitation before and went in my place, but I never read any reviews of this long expected third album.

However, a quick check of the Internet reveals that in fact Ms Boo did not release her third album ‘Boomerang’ until some thirty years after her second ‘GRRR….Its Betty Boo’ so it would appear that despite all the promises the 1996 album never saw the light of day.  Maybe the Britpop bubble bursting ruined it, maybe the record company thought it was just a complete waste of time and money (and lets be honest they would have been right) and pulled the plug.

Two other Betty tracks for your listening pleasure today, the first is from Ms Taylor of Swift and the second is from Slough born afro beat drill rapper Pa Salieu.

Betty – Taylor Swift (2020, self released, Taken from ‘folklore’) – which is according to the Internet inspired by albums released by Bob Dylan in the 1960s.

Betty – Pa Salieu (2020, self released, Taken from ‘Send them to Coventry’) – It came out three months before Salieu was named the winner of the BBC Sound of 2021 award.  Sadly for Salieu thing have taken a bit of downturn as he is currently serving 33 months for violent disorder and possessing an offensive weapon (which was a menacing looking bottle apparently).  He was according to reports defending himself at the scene of a stabbing where his friend had been fatally wounded.  I hope better times are around the corner for him because he is clearly very talented.

On Monday we will look at Barney.  Not hopefully the purple dinosaur.

A Month all about Names – #2 – Jane

Hey Jane – Spiritualized (2012, Double Six Records, Taken from ‘Sweet Heart, Sweet Light)

Fans of Spiritualized will know that they are no strangers to songs that clock in at well over seven or eight minutes.  They will know that Jason Pierce revels in constructing a song that has multiple layers and sections, that experiment with different instruments, sounds and moods.  Fans will also know that Pierce is hardly a fan of the radio edit and so if he wants a comeback single to be a nine minute epic, then it will be a nine minute epic and that’s that. 

So when, ‘Hey Jane’ the first taste of their seventh studio album, was released and its nine minute running time was announced, fans rubbed their hands with glee and strapped themselves in for ride, because judging by the bands other lengthy songs (‘Cop Shoot Cop’, ‘Medication’, Feels So Sad’) it was likely to be mind blowing.

Sure enough we were right, ‘Hey Jane’ is a marvellous affair.  It’s all crunchy guitars, swooping soundscapes and a killer chorus.  About halfway through the song does this sort of mid song flip that throws the song upside down and the fires up again near the end into a harmony tinged singalong. All nine minutes of it are incredible but then again its Spiritualized and I’m almost bound to say that given how much I love them.

The album that followed ‘Hey Jane’ was just as stunning, the songs that it contained were full of big sounding choruses and harked back to some of the more muscular songs that were found on ‘Amazing Grace’ and ‘Let It Come Down’.  Almost all the fragility of the band’s previous album had been swept away. 

Three more ‘Jane’ songs for you (well four actually)

First up New Jersey rockers The Gaslight Anthem and their acoustic version of ‘Antonia Jane’.  A song which they stuck on their 2011 B Sides album. 

Antonia Jane – The Gaslight Anthem (2011, Sony Records, Taken from ‘B Sides’) – ‘Antonia Jane’ is a cover version of a Lightning Dust track (Lightning Dust are a Black Mountains off shoot band and make gentle alt country and piano inspired music and are worth checking out – here’s the original, which is far better.

 Antonia Jane – Lightning Dust (2009, Jagjaguwar Records, Taken from ‘Infinite Light’)

Next up are Jacksonville’s Black Kids, and their track ‘Hurricane Jane’ which was the fourth single to be released from their 2008 debut album ‘Party Traumatic’.  In 2008, Black Kids looked set for world domination but it took nine long years for a second album to emerge and by that time music had moved on.

Hurricane Jane – Black Kids (2008, Columbia Records, Taken from ‘Party Traumatic’)

Finally for today, Ms Polly Jean Harvey and the track ‘Me-Jane’ which is taken from Polly’s rip snorting second album ‘Rid of Me’.

Me – Jane – PJ Harvey (1993, Island Records, Taken from ‘Rid of Me’)

Welcome to February – A Month all about Names – #1 – Frank/Frankie

February – Beach Bunny (2017, 626987 Records, Taken from ‘Crybaby EP’)

Last week’s pointless whodunnit wasn’t actually pointless.  I mean it was pointless because it wasn’t actually a whodunnit at all because no one did it at all.   The clue was in the title.  But away from the actual story it was deliberately spread across seven chapters because that is how many days I had left in January to fill before February started.  It also allowed me to try (somewhat tenuously) to thread clues as to what was going to feature on this here blog throughout 2023.  There will be a different theme each month and because I’m a generous sort I will give prizes for the first person to guess a theme correctly – apart from this month because I’ve already told you the theme for February.  There are nine to guess, three are very easy, one is virtually impossible and there are at least two red herrings.  Good Luck. 

February is going to be all about names.  Twenty posts that will all feature a song that contains a name in the title.  I have as usual created a playlist (containing about 100 songs) and every day one will be picked at random and we will see what songs fall out when it is shook.  First up…..Frankie.

Frankie Muniz – Blackstarkids (2020, Dirty Hit Records, Taken from ‘Whatever, Man’)

Frankie was my grandads name.  Well sort of.  He was Frank but his wife of fifty two years, my nan, called him Frankie, especially if she wanted him to do something.  No one else dared called him Frankie. 

I remember when I was twelve helping my grandad to clear a mound of old plants and weeds so that a new crop of raspberry bushes could be planted in their place.  About halfway through we were rewarded for our hard work with tea and biscuits which were served with a sweet smile by my Nan.  When Nan had gone in I asked Grandad why we had to do this right now (I think I might have been missing the A Team on ITV) and he looked up and me said

Because Nan called me Frankie.  You’ll learn what that’s like lad.”

Five years later when I was possibly seventeen I turned up at Nan and Grandads to find him in the shed, sanding a piece of wood and fixing a bracket to the bottom of it.  It was about six o clock at night and freezing cold.

She call you Frankie?” I asked him with a smile.  He nodded with a kind of lopsided grin and held the shelf up to the lightbulb.  It was perfectly straight and as shelves go, looked beautiful.

At his funeral, just before the curtains closed, she walked up to his coffin, placed her hand on it and said

 “Wait for me Frankie” and then walked off in complete silence knowing that he absolutely would. 

Frankie Muniz is/was if my memory is correct the actor who played Malcolm from the Malcolm in the Middle TV Series.  I don’t why Blackstarkids have made a song about him but regardless of their reasons it’s a rather wonderful thing.

There are a few songs in my library that have ‘Frank’ or ‘Frankie’ in the titles.    The first is a cover version of the song from the musical ‘Hair’.   The latter, one hopes, a tribute to the break up of Leatherface.  The Malcom in the middle is by indie nearly rans The Family Rain.

Frank Mills – The Lemonheads (1992, Atlantic Records, Taken from ‘It’s A Shame About Ray)

Feel Better (Frank) – The Family Rain (2014, EMI Records, Taken from ‘Under The Volcano’)

Frankie Stubbs’ Tears – Franz Nicolay (2012, English Armor Records, Taken from ‘Do the Struggle’)

Tomorrow – Jane

Rearranging The Flowers – A Pointless Whodunnit with musical interludes and 7 chapters – #7

(When the everything falls into place and the truth is revealed.  Probably.)

When I was sixteen I went to the police station to rat on a guy called Geoff who was handling all manner of stolen goods in exchange for various types of narcotics and cash.  If you needed say a car stereo (and back then you did need a car stereo) or a dozen bottles of paracetamol, then Geoff from the estate was your man.  Sadly for Geoff his little brother Alfie threatened to kick my head in after a particularly controversial game of Pom Pom. So I grassed his brother up.  The police told me that I would remain anonymous.  A week after his door got kicked in, an envelope full of dog turds got posted through my front door and my dad’s Renualt’s tyres got slashed.  I’ve always been wary of telling the Old Bill anything since then.

Don’t Tell Anyone – Colour Me Wednesday (2016, Doveton Records, Taken from ‘Anyone and Everyone EP’)

After the message from my wife I went home and sat there on the sofa not quite knowing what to do.  I idly picked at a sausage roll from the fridge and mulled the events of today over in my mind.  After a good hour or so or debating this I decided to write everything down.  Firstly I drew a mind map, I seen some boffins do this on in an episode of NCIS and they solved a twenty year old murder just by doing it, so I did that and when I finished it looked like I sneezed on a bit of paper and then scribbled on it.  

Where’s Your Head At? – Basement Jaxx (2001, XL Recordings, Taken from ‘Rooty’)

Then I wrote up my notes and left then on the kitchen table.  I sent my wife a message, asking her when she would be home (about eight she said).  I decided to tell her my story, from the bit where I was stuck on the roof, right up to the bit when I found out that Veronica had no idea that Kevin had a set of keys to Angela Finch’s house.  I was then going to deliver the note to the police station, as long as my wife thought it was a good idea.  I didn’t want more bags of dog poo pushed through the letterbox, saying that my letterbox is at the edge of my drive, so it would matter that much.

When I’d finished I slumped back on the sofa, exhausted and then glanced up at the clock it was a quarter to seven in the evening.  It was then I realised I had to return Angela’s keys to Kevin so that he could apparently feed the cats.    I grabbed my car keys and Angela’s keys and then left the house.

It is about a three minute drive to Kevin’s house.  He lives in a small thatched cottage about three doors up from the pub.  It has a massive cherry tree at the front and in the summer he sells bags of cherries for a pound a bag.  He has a noticeboard erected outside his house in which he usually advertises local events that the church is running.

I parked in the small car park at the back of the church and wandered down to Kevin’s.  I said a deliberately cheery “Hello” to an old guy called Eric who lives nearby and was unloading shopping bags from his car, just in case Kevin bludgeoned me death with a spanner.  Eric asked me “How I was diddling?” and then went back to his over packed Marks and Spencers bag.  One of them had a split in it and I feared for his pork roast.

If I Die – Biff Bang Pow (1987, Creation Records, Taken from ‘The Girl Who Runs the Beat Hotel’)

It was a nice evening, the sun was beginning to go down and there was some warmth in it, the rain of earlier had all gone.  I stopped just outside Kevin’s gate and took a few deeps breaths.  I sent my wife a quick text asking her if she could pick up some milk on her way home from the hospital (she is a nurse) and left a kiss and then I opened the gate and walked in.

I got about five paces, when Kevin opened the door and waved at me.  He was holding a drill at the time and I had several quick flashbacks to my mate Dean’s lounge in the mid nineties and us scaring ourselves stupid aged thirteen watching his dads stash of video nasties. 

I pulled the dinosaur keyring out of my pocket and as I did, my phone rang.

It was my wife.  I held my hand up to Kevin and turned my back.  Which I thought was a daft thing to do considering I thought he was a killer and he was armed with a battery operated drill.

“Hey” I said to my wife. 

“Hey” She said, “Can’t talk for long, it’s bedlam here, but just quickly.  I’ve just been talking with Angela Finch, her sister’s been taken in with a gastro…”

“What, hang on say that again” I said interrupting, and my wife repeated what she said, I span round and looked at Kevin, he was pretending not to listen on his doorstep.

 “Oh thank god” I whispered. 

“Her sister is very ill, darling” my wife snapped. 

“Oh, yes, I mean, doesn’t matter, carry on”.

Fresh Feeling – Eels (2001, Dreamworks Records, Taken from ‘Souljacker’)

My wife in her duties as a nurse had bumped into Angela Finch on the Ross Kemp Ward at the hospital and had a brief chat with her.  Her sister has been taken seriously ill with some sort of stomach issue and after all the pleasantries, she had reminded my wife that I had promised to sort out a wiring problem in her kitchen and that if I was going to do it tomorrow then I could get a key from Kevin, whose feeding the cats and let myself in.  I was also told that I could help myself to the ginger cake in the breadbin.  

Kevin walked past me and went and stuck something on his little noticeboard and I walked towards him. I looked at the notice as he stapled it to the board.

The Friends of St Andrews Church Present “Agatha Christie Night” was what it said. 

“Agatha Christie” I said and looked at him, my voice wobbling largely out of relief.

“Yeah, we are doing a version of ’Murder at the Vicarage’, I’m playing the killer.  All a bit of fun.  We were practising our lines today at the church.  Jean is playing my accomplice and my Ronnie is playing Miss Marple.  All a bit of fun.  You’ll come along won’t you.  Tickets are a fiver…?”

Oh Me, Oh My – James Yorkston (2019, Domino Records, Taken from ‘The Route to the Harmonium’)

Normal service will be resumed tomorrow. And I promise never to do this again.

Thanks – The Wedding Present (1989, RCA Records, Taken from ‘Bizarro’)

Rearranging The Flowers – A Pointless Whodunnit with musical interludes and 7 chapters – #6

(Let’s recap, our hero has hotfooted to Angela’s house to find evidence of her demise, and the phone has just rung)

When I was fifteen I found myself alone in my friend Dean’s house.  He had to nip to his grans for dinner and he told me that I could stay and watch his video of 101 Great Goals (this was 1989 by the way because the last goal featured is Keith Houchen’s diving header for Coventry against Spurs in the 1987 Cup Final).  He would only be an hour or so.  Anyway there I sat on his mums sofa, eating their crisps and supping their lemonade, when the phone rang.

Dean’s Room – Allison Crutchfield (2017, Merge Records, Taken from ‘Tourist In This Town’)

It was his dad on the phone – and he thought he was speaking to Dean.  So I pretended to be him so that Dean wouldn’t get into trouble for letting his mates loose on the snacks.  It worked for about two minutes until the dad twigged and he shouted down the phone at me and told me to buggr off out of his house.  I was never invited back to that house ever again.

Anyway, there I stood in Angela Finch’s sitting room with two options, firstly I could ignore the phone, which in hindsight is what I should have done, but in reality I took the second option and answered the phone.  My reasoning is that I thought it might be her sister and I could get some vital information

But it wasn’t her sister. 

There was an awkward silence when I answered, and a female voice said “Oh”.  Then there was another awkward silence.  So I spoke and said that I was in the house fixing a cupboard and that Angela wasn’t in at the moment.  Could I leave her a message.  The voice said she was Veronica Chambers and she was call back later, before I could say another word, she hung up. I wrote the name down on a cat shaped post it note and stuck it on the phone and decided to continue with my looking round. 

I Found A Reason – Cat Power (2000, Matador Records, Taken from ‘The Covers Record’)

But my mind was whirring a bit more.  The name Veronica Chambers meant very little to me but I was sure I had seen the name somewhere before in the village, and it played on my mind as I looked for the address book.  If Veronica was a close friend, she would be in the book I thought. I also sent my wife a message because if she was local then my mother in law would definitely know her,

 “Can you ask your mum who Veronica Chambers is please?”

It didn’t take me long to find the address book.  It was on the second shelf of the bookcase tucked in between a big copy of the Bible and an Illustrated Guide to Horses. It had a flowery cover, but I didn’t open it because something else on the shelf caught my eye.  There was a printed picture left on the sideboard and I picked that up instead.  It was a photo of Angela standing in a group with four people.  They are standing in the church in front of the font and a huge basket of flowers.  Angela is in the middle of the group and she is flanked on the left by the vicar and to the right by a religious looking man who is shaking Angela’s hand.  To right of the religious looking man is Kevin and to the left of the vicar was Mrs Checkley.  Kevin is just about smiling but Checkley looks absolutely furious, murderous you could say.

Hideous Heart – Ichabod Wolf (2018, Adult Teeth Records, Taken from ‘Carry On Crow’)

Angela was holding something in her other hand, but the photo was blurred – but I have seen this photo before somewhere, very recently.

I popped the print out back where I’d found it and took the address book over to the small coffee table, which had a half done puzzle of a farmyard on it and sat down to read it.   I looked at my watch, it was twenty past four, and I needed to be somewhere else.

Get A Move On! – Mr Scruff (1999, Ninja Tunes Records, Taken from ‘Keep It Unreal’)

Then my phone buzzed just as I was turning to C in the address book.  It was my wife. 

“Veronica Chambers is the partner of Fat Kevin the bloke who fixed her boiler for free last summer, those are her exact words.  Does she need some work doing?”.

Oh. 

Bad Feeling (Demo) – Veronica Falls (2011, Slumberland Records, Taken from ‘Veronica Falls’)

League Two Music – #11 – Crawley Town

Charlotte Sometimes – The Cure (1981, Fiction Records, Taken from ‘Faith’)

Before 2005, Crawley Town were a pretty uneventful non-league side.  Between 1984 and 2005 they spent twenty seasons in the Southern Division finishing no higher than 8th and no lower than 15th in that time.  In 2005, they finally achieved some success by winning promotion to the Conference.  Then they turned professional and in 2007 they appointed well known fat bastard Steve Evans as their manager.  In 2010, the club received substantial financial backing from ‘overseas’ (that is what it says) and spent heavily so that they could achieve promotion to the football league.   They were rumoured to have spent £300,000 on a single player and close to £1 million in a single transfer window.  

The expense worked and in 2011, after a highly lucrative FA Cup run (where Crawley lost 1 nil to Manchester United in the fifth round at Old Trafford – United were lucky as star striker Richard Brodie (the player that Crawley paid £300,000 for) – hit the cross bar from three yards out in the 93rd minute.

Crawley spent heavily again in their first season in league football and were immediately promoted to League One, where they spent three years before being relegated back to League Two where they have remained since 2015.

In April 2022, the strangest chapter of Crawley Town started, they were bought out by WAGMI United Ltd, who earnt their money by investing in cryptocurrency.  The new owners promised a new approach and talked about dominating football in ten years.  Within a month their manager had been sacked (and subsequently banned for 18 months) for racial abusing his own players.  By October 2022, under the stewardship of Kevin Betsy, the club were bottom of League Two (its ok, Gillingham soon replaced them at the bottom).  In November Betsy was sacked and replaced by Matthew Etherington.  In December 2022 they sacked Matthew Etherington after 32 days in charge of the club and their chairman a man called Preston Johnson appointed himself co caretaker manager with ex pro Darren Byfield.  Johnson didn’t understand how substitutions worked and by January 2023 a man called Scott Lindsay became the clubs fifth manager since April.

There maybe hope for Gillingham yet (who have just been bought by an American property magnate and is currently investing heavily). 

The most famous musical act to have come out of Crawley is The Cure, Robert Smith was born in the town, and this lyric from ‘One Hundred Years’ was apparently written whilst waiting in the queue at Crawley Job Centre (that isn’t true but I like the imagery of Smith clad in black waiting in line to collect information about a bus drivers job that he doesn’t want).

 “It doesn’t matter if we all die. Ambition in the back of a black car

One Hundred Years – The Cure (1982, Fiction Records, Taken from ‘Pornography’)

Elsewhere San Francisco indie rock band The Pleased qualify for the freedom of Crawley under the BRMC South Devon Clause, as guitarist Rich Good originates from Crawley.

Already Gone – The Pleased (2003, Big Wheel Reception Records, Taken from ‘Don’t Make Things’ )

Also from Crawley is Kingslee James Mclean Daley – or Akala as his fans know him.  Akala is a rapper and political activist who now spends most of his time writing excellent books on race and the empire.

Shakespeare – Akala (2006, Illa State Records, Taken from ‘It’s Not A Rumour’)

All of which brings us to this week’s previously unheard of band, who are Young Fatigue.  A band who describe themselves as a sleepy punk band who are inspired by 90s grunge. 

Love/Them – Young Fatigue (2022, Self Released, Single)

Nearly Perfect Albums – #49

Definitely Maybe – Oasis

Rock N Roll Star – Oasis (1994, Creation Records)

The first time I heard ‘Definitely Maybe’ I was sold.  I listened to it again on repeat just to make sure.  Yup, utterly sold.  From the era defining first line of ‘Rock N Roll Star’

Live my life in the city, there’s no easy way out

and its reverb heavy guitars and the way Liam frankly snarls all over it in a way, that we came to realise and adore, only he could (despite many trying, failing and vanishing).  I was sold on the way the drums sounded on ‘Columbia, I was sold on the way that Noel’s guitar playing sounded like nothing, absolutely nothing, that I had ever heard before (face facts Johnnys Marr and Squire).  I was even sold on the frankly ridiculous lyrics about “living under waterfalls” and the soppy, drippy sentiment that ran though songs like ‘Slide Away’, but most of all I was sold on the fact that ‘Live Forever’ was one of the greatest songs ever written.

Live Forever – Oasis (1994, Creation Records)

In 1994, Definitely Maybe’ was pretty much everything and right there and then, it, Noel, and (especially) Liam convinced me that the only life for me was that of being a rock star that had a seemingly endless supply of cigarettes and alcohol and a girl with whom I could literally live forever.

Cigarettes and Alcohol – Oasis (1994, Creation Records)

I saw Oasis live pretty early on into their career, not at the Water Rats or the 100 Club but at a fairly large London venue when the secret was out, and they were about six months away from being the greatest band on the planet (for three years at least).  I remember being fairly close to the front and being totally mesmerised by Liam.  By the way he stood so close to the microphone that he looked like he was going to headbutt it.  You know that look, arms behind the back, chin stuck out, swaggering back and forward with a stare that told you it doesn’t matter a jot what he was singing, it was how he was singing it that mattered and for a while at least, he was totally 100% spot on.

Columbia – Oasis (1994, Creation Records)

Of course, there are nowadays about a million reasons to lampoon Oasis, the fact that every album they did after say, 1997, was rubbish, watered down post Beatles slop.  The fact that Liam became a bit of a knobhead, that fact that Noel shat all his legacy into a rather large dustbin when he formed the High Flying Birds (and whilst I’m on the subject Liam did an even bigger dump of his legacy with Beady Eye).  The fact that they are (probably) singlehandedly to blame for the rise and almost total takeover of guitar music by mindless bloke rock designed to cater solely for men who drink in Wetherspoons pubs and think that Next is height of fashion. Like I said, a lot of reasons.

But. There are several million more reasons to love Oasis – Every Oasis single and album up to 1997 at the very least should be a mainstay in any music catalogue and to be honest you are all kidding yourselves if you think anything different, you loved them when they mattered.  Admit it.

I’ll take you back up to the top of this piece and the thing I said about being sold by the soppy drippy sentiment of a song like ‘Slide Away’.  ‘Slide Away’, with the possible exception of ‘Live Forever’ is the greatest moment of Oasis’s entire career and it was their ability back then to firstly write songs like this and then go on stage and get Liam to deliver it, that made ‘Definitely Maybe’ so essential in the first place. 

Slide Away – Oasis (1994, Creation Records)

Rearranging The Flowers – A Pointless Whodunnit with musical interludes and 7 chapters – #5

(In which our hero has a good idea or so he thinks)

Five years ago I got made redundant from a firm of builders that I had worked for since I was about nineteen.  Seemingly thrust onto life’s scrapheap at the relatively young age of 43 I decided to start my own business and since then I have never looked back.  Since the pandemic I have been able to scale things back a bit and I am now pretty much the man to call in this village and three neighbouring villages if you need something fixing – there are not many kitchens in a five mile radius that I haven’t fitted cupboards into or patios that I haven’t helped lay.  One old lady paid me £200 last Christmas to build her a table that her granddaughter can build Lego on. 

Busy Earnin’- Jungle (2014, XL Recording, Taken from ‘Jungle’)

It was about five minutes after Mrs Checkley told us all that Angela Finch was staying with her sister that I had my first brilliant idea (well I thought it was brilliant).  The fuss of the broken vase and the possible missing person had, if you excuse the term, died down a bit. Taking my cue I asked Kevin, who, was unusually quiet, a question.

Plan A – Letters & Colours (2007, Mother Tongue Records, Taken from ‘Gaunt’ Single)

“Kev” I said, trying to appeal to his chirpy London demeanour, “A few weeks ago, Angela asked me if I could fix a cupboard in her kitchen for her, I said I’d do this week.  Do you mind if I do it when you pop round to feed the cats?  Shouldn’t take more than fifteen minutes, it was just a bracket that needed rehinging.”

Silence.  So I continued.

“Or you could just give me the key and I can go and do it now, its on the way home after all, I’ll drop the key back when I’m done. Be nice for her for it to be done when she gets home.  Her tins of rice pudding keeps falling out of the door you see”.

I’m usually a rubbish liar but I think I’d sounded pretty convincing, almost as convincing as Mrs Checkley I would say. Although I might have been pushing it a bit with the rice pudding.  Angela Finch would make her own rice pudding for sure.

Lies – Deap Vally (2013, Island Records, Taken from ‘Sistronix’)

Kevin stops sweeping the floor and, after the briefest of glances across to Mrs Checkley, who I am absolutely sure nodded her head, reaches into his pocket, and produces a set of keys.  They are dangling off a pink dinosaur keyring which has ‘Dinosaur World’ stamped on its belly. 

“Can you drop them back to me before 7 tonight please, as the cats will want their dinner”,

and with that he lobs the keys through the air and fall on the pew next to me with a clunk and I pick them up and literally run out of the church.

Don’t Look Back – Teenage Fanclub (1995, Creation Records, Taken from ‘Grand Prix’)

I went the long way round to Angela’s house, and I parked my van in yard by the farmers barn, phoned my wife to tell her where I was (in case I never returned) and then walked the couple of hundred metres down to Angela’s house.  I stopped twice to check that I wasn’t being followed by Kevin or Mrs Checkley and then let myself in the back door.  

The first thing that greeted me was Matthew, one of the cats, a big noisy brown shorthaired who leapt off a sideboard and meowed loudly at my feet and scared the life out of me.  I gave him a quick stroke, popped my bag down on the floor, and told myself that despite not knowing Angela’s sister name I should look for an address book.

Where Do I Begin? – Chemical Brothers (1997, Freestyle Dust, Taken from ‘Exit Planet Dust’)

I walked into the small sitting room, there was a big bookshelf on the wall by the door and a wall cupboard containing crockery and a series of framed photos on my left.  I had just picked up a photo of Angela with her arms around two small children when the phone on the table behind me rang.