The One Word Countdown – #18

A song for all the mating glow worms out there…..

Nightswimming – REM (1993, Warner Bros Records, Taken from ‘Automatic for the People’)

Points 142

If you ever find yourself in Bermuda in the first week of September, then you should probably enter the Labor Day Road Race.  It is a 10km run or walk that takes in the northern part of the island (or did when I ran it) and winds it away through Pembroke Parish before dropping down through Black Watch Pass (literally a tunnel cut into some rocks) and down to the finish.  It’s famed for its spectacular views of the ocean on the north coast.  One part of that north coast in an area called Spanish Point, which also if you are in Bermuda in the first week of September you should check out – but wait until the darkness comes, grab a few bottles of Corona Beer and pack some swimming shorts.  Because in those waters, at night and pretty much only when the moon is at its fullest, you will see the most amazing live sex show on the earth.

I’m not talking about American tourists getting jiggy with it in the water, I’m talking about glow worms, for some reason Spanish Point is the glow worms favourite pick up joint.  The females start it all off, they rise from the mud at the bottom of the sea to the surface and as they do they omit as bright green chemical which glows under moonlight and attracts the boys.  The boys then zoom up from the bottom and they pretty much have a party and give the watching crowds (and it is a tourist attraction) a spectacular light show, the erm, climax of the evening sees the males and females both, again, erm, release what can only be described as an explosion of glow before it all settles down again.

Michael Stipe says that ‘Nightswimming’ is all about an area of his home town that he and his friends used to go skinny dipping in when they were a much younger band.  It was the fifth single to be released from the bands ‘Automatic for the People’ album and is if you ask me one of the finest songs that the band ever recorded, the band have rarely sounded quite as gorgeous as they do in ‘Nightswimming’.

There are of course two quite well known cover versions of ‘Nightswimming’, both are pretty good in their own way. 

Nightswimming – Gene (1997, London Records, Taken from ‘Where Are They Now’ single)

Nightswimming – Jason Isbell (2021)

A couple of other REM songs that were considered before I plumped for ‘Nightswimming’, you could of course have this

Superman – REM (1986, I.R.S Records, Taken from ‘Lifes Rich Pageant’)

Or this

Stand – REM (1988, Warner Bros Records, Taken from ‘Green’)

The One Word Countdown – #19

Marmite encased in a techno beat…

Rez – Underworld (1993, Junior Boys Own, Taken from ‘1992 – 2012 Anthology’)

Points 137

There are two alternative charts for this rundown – both of which may see the light of day at the end of the series.  The first alternative chart is the ‘Average’ score chart, which looks at the number of points divided by the number of votes and then minuses 31.  If we use that chart ‘Rez’ sits 5th in the countdown (actually with a bit of mathematical mechanics it’s probably 3rd).

The second alternative chart is the ‘popular’ score chart.  This is simply the number of times the song was chosen by the voters.  If we use that chart, ‘Rez’ is 33rd (and again probably a bit lower if we use a proper equation).

The difference in this is what I am calling the Marmite factor. 

Put simply ‘Rez’ appeared in less of the voters countdowns than any other song in the Top 30.  For comparison, yesterday’s track ‘Rent’ appeared in twice as many rundowns as ‘Rez’ did, but ‘Rez’ scored more points.  The reason is simple.  Nearly every person who voted for ‘Rez’ placed it in their Top Five (although no one voted it at Number One) so it scored huge points whenever it appeared whereas ‘Rent’ scored regularly but quite low on several charts.  So it would seem that the people who love ‘Rez’ really love it and those that don’t, simply don’t.

‘Rez’ first surfaced as a non album single and the original pressings were on a very limited edition pink vinyl (and if you have a copy tucked away in the cupboard under the stairs, you might want to put it somewhere a bit safer).  A few months later it was released more generally and had the future single, the more edgy and trance like ‘Cowgirl’ (and a track that very nearly made it on to this rundown in place of ‘Rez’ simply because it was one of the tracks that when DJ’ing you could stick on and the dancefloor would just go crazy for it) on the B side.

Cowgirl – Underworld (1994, Junior Boys Own, Taken from ‘Dubnobasswithmyheadman’)

Of course, Karl Hyde’s lyrical chant throughout ‘Cowgirl’ “Everything, everything…” inspired another band to plug in their keyboards and make music.

Duet – Everything Everything (2013, RCA Records, Taken from ‘Arc’)

There was one other Underworld song that was considered for this rundown – and it was seriously considered as well.

Moaner – Underworld (1997, Junior Boys Own Records, Taken from ‘Beaucoup Fish’)

The One Word Countdown – #20

Welcome to the Top 20…..

Rent – Pet Shop Boys (1987, Parlophone Records, Taken from ‘Actually’)

Points 136

Its not often I want to be reminded of 1987, what with Thatcherism, AIDS, rampant unemployment and the inexplicable rise to fame of a whole host of awful bands.  However, one of the greatest things about that year was ‘Actually’ by Pet Shop Boys.  An album that I had a physical fist fight with my brother over, as he wanted to listen to it first on his new Walkman and so did I. (he won, I waited, sulking in the lounge, moodily reading Smash Hits, whilst rubbing my arm where the Chinese Burn still stung). 

‘Rent’ was one of the finest singles that the Pet Shop Boys released and considering just how many fine singles they did release, this is really saying something.   But the thing I remember most about ‘Rent’ – apart from this superb verse: –

“You phoned me in the evening on hearsay / And bought me caviar / You took me to a restaurant off Broadway / To tell me who you are “.

Is the video.

The video for ‘Rent’ was directed by Derek Jarman, and it starred professional Liverpudlian Margi Clarke and in a surprising casting decision the 7th Marquis of Bath as a couple who are hosting what looks like an exclusive dinner party.  Margi is being largely ignored by her pompous fella and gets increasing fed up with all the glitz and glamour going on at the dinner party (video has lots of shots of over eating and general gluttony).  Eventually Margi gets up and leaves and jumps in a car – driven by her very dapper looking chauffeur, drolly played by Neil Tennant (like he was going to play it any other way).  

He drives her to Kings Cross where she meets a waiting Chris Lowe, they embrace and that is that.  Only is not, because this is the Pet Shop Boys and they don’t work like that.   The video is shot in reverse so you get the end first and the beginning last, so it starts with Margi embracing Chris Lowe and ends with the dinner party starting. 

Of course we can’t talk about ‘Rent’ without mentioning this version of it, which, some say, betters the original – and memorably changes the verse above to “Fulham Broadway” , includes a sample from episode twenty one of Thundercats (just in case you didn’t know that) and rants about the Poll Tax at the end.  This also allows me to drop in that around October I’m going to be doing a series of cover versions that are better than the originals. 

Rent – Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine (1990, Big Cat Records, Taken from ‘Rubbish’ 12”)

Here is another Pet Shop Boys cover that might not make it on to that list

West End Girls – We Have Band (2009, Naïve Records) (takes you to a You Tube Video)

Major League Music – #19 – New York Mets

Cali to New York – Black Eyed Peas Featuring De La Soul (2000, Interscope Records)

The only baseball shirt that I own is a Mets one.  In fact it’s the second shirt of theirs that I have owned.  I wore it around Calgary three years ago and a complete stranger bought me a beer at a bar because he was a fan and they’d just beaten the Phillies (more of them later).   I love the Mets almost as much as I love the Royals.

The Mets have kind of lived in the Yankees shadow for a long time.  They are less successful and less well supported. They have only won two World Series (the last of those being back in 1986) as opposed to the 700 or so that the Yankees have bought won.  In their first season as a professional team, the Mets recorded the worst win average ever – a record which still stands today. 

But right now, the Mets are flying and as I type this they are sitting pretty at the top of the National League East, four games clear of the Atlanta Braves (more of them later too) and twelve clear of the Phillies and look a sure fire bet for the post season.  If they qualify it will be the first time since 2016 that they have qualified.  An all New York World Series is I think still possible and if they can keep the heroic Mark Canha from getting injured, they (whisper it) might just have a chance.

The Mets are from the borough of Queens in New York, an area which has spawned loads of really fantastic music over the years.  One of the first notable groups to emerge out of Queens were The Shangri Las, who formed at Andrew Jackson High School, the only other famous thing that is connected to that school is that in the 1970s New York City Cops (they ain’t too smart, remember) broke up a massive heroin processing factory in the schools basement (actually 50 Cent and LL Cool J both also attended this school).

Leader of the Pack – The Shangri Las (1964, Red Bird Records)

Another act to come out of Queens were the tremendous Salt n Pepa who achieved global success with ‘Push It’ in the mid eighties.  ‘Push It’ was great because despite it obviously being about shagging (the original lyrics were ‘Pussy Real Good…’) it got copious amount of radio play and due to it catchy riffs and lyrics, ten year olds up and down the country for about four months could all be hearing yelling “Push It Real good” on street corners all over the place.

Push It – Salt-n-Pepa (1987, London Records)

But the band that has almost become synonymous with Queens are Run DMC.  In 1997, a little known DJ and producer called Jason Nevins (and lets be honest if Jason Nevins was sitting next to you right now, you wouldn’t recognise him) took the debut single by Run DMC (“It’s Like That”) remixed and it went to Number One.   It was only the second Top Ten hit that the band had ever had in the UK (the other being the one that they recorded with Aerosmith) since they released their first single back in 1983.

It’s Like That – Run DMC (1983, Profile Records)

Which brings us nicely to this weeks previously unheard of new act.  An act that up until today were sitting unloved on the broken seat on the last tube to Ruislip as the gang bangers from Acton slowly advanced on them.  That is until they were dragged off the tube at Notting Hill Gate for the relative safety of the District Line.  Ladies and gents, here is Infinite Coles, a singer who despite being the son of Ghostface Killah of the Wu Tang Clan is as far removed from hip hop as you can get.

Destiny – Infinite Coles (2021, Don’t Sleep Records)

Next week we are back in Chicago – which means the Cubs

Nearly Perfect Albums – #39

Hearts – I Break Horses

Cancer – I Break Horses (2011, Bella Union Records)

You know those incredibly trendy coffee shops.  The ones that are expensive, staffed by impeccably coiffured men and beautiful looking women all of whom have done degrees in barrista science and as such they serve 72 types of coffee or tea.  The type that you think that will be irritating but then when you enter, the tea tastes great, the seats are comfy, the atmosphere is cool, and calm and even the music that is just about playing in the background is way more interesting that anything on your phone or device.  The type of place that becomes your absolute favourite place to get tea from the moment you sip the Sri Lankan blend and the best thing is that it’s like being allowed into an exclusive club that means until Kev the Plumber discovers it and starts moaning about turmeric bloody lattes, you are a beautiful person.  That folks is how I feel about ‘Hearts’ the impeccably expensive, wonderfully coiffured, beautiful looking debut album by Swedish duo I Break Horses.  I’m giving you the access code to that shop here guys, thank me later.

If you’ve not heard it before ‘Hearts’ is one of the finest shoegaze records of recent years.  Only its not shoegaze as you would expect it to be – there are no drone-y feedback infused guitars played by pasty faced white guys with stripey jumpers.  This is shoegaze made (mostly) with computers for an audience who have never heard ‘Loveless’ and have absolutely no desire to do so.  Musically they have been likened to acts like M83, but if you ask me the music of I Break Horses is something altogether more intriguing, and a whole load more enthralling.  ‘Hearts’ is an album that is full of wonderful surprises.  A mixture of exciting noises, soundscapes, understated whispery vocals, emotional lyrics and a just a hint of a sense of humour.   It is an album that evokes a dreamy presence and one that sounds at times like it wants to gently whisper you to sleep as you snuggle your head into a pillow.  It kind of massages your ears and it simply gorgeous because of it.

The title track ‘Hearts’ is a real grower of a song.  It builds slowly with a twinkly introduction and a looping synth and barely there vocals, it is one of the songs that can either mend or break hearts depending on your state of mind.  It reminds me very much of a much gentler ‘Olympians’ but one that has just as much mangled beauty.

Hearts – I Break Horses (2011, Bella Union Records)

Another highlight is ‘Load Your Eyes’ which sounds a like early New Order track if that track was sung by one of Lush.  The faint strum of the guitar in the background that underpins it is one of the most beautiful things you will hear today.

Load Your Eyes – I Break Horses (2011, Bella Union Records)

I said earlier on that this is not an album full of drone-y guitar swathed in feedback, there is one exception to that.  ‘Wired’ sounds like the band just happened to be walking past My Bloody Valentines studio when an unwanted track was hurled in their direction.  As it happens it feels almost out of place here, great as it is.

Wired – I Break Horses (2011, Bella Union Records)

The One Word Countdown – #21

You’ve got to pick some people up…..

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

Points 135

Succumbing to all the indie schmindie stereotypes that have already been (correctly) allocated to me – I owned ‘Bizarro’ on tape.  I know this because I exchanged a copy of Bananarama’s Greatest Hits for it in the Hempstead Valley Branch of Our Price in January 1991.  I’d been given the Bananarama cassette as a Christmas present from an aunt and whilst I will always argue that their version of ‘Venus’ is the definitive version, I wasn’t really a big fan.

Venus – Bananarama (1986, London Records, Taken from ‘True Confessions’)

I listened to ‘Bizarro’ a lot back then.  Largely because of ‘Kennedy’ (but also because of ‘Brassneck’ and the nine minute epic ‘Take Me’) and the tape suddenly begun to work its way around the kids at school who were indie minded.  I think there was a period of maybe five months when I had no idea who actually had my copy of ‘Bizarro’. The same thing happened in 1992 with my copy of ‘The Great White Wonder’ by the Pooh Sticks but not bizarrely my copy of the debut Birdland album.

I think everyone loves ‘Kennedy’, certainly I’ve met very few people who claim not to like it, you only have to say “Too much apple pie…” to people and you an see a wistfully haze cross their face as they are transported back to a time where furiously fast guitars that sound like they are on amphetamines was the thing to be listening to.

Actually talking of “too much apple pie…” that moment about half a second after David Gedge reluctantly (well he sounds reluctant…) sings it, when the bass comes in, growling like some huge monster with an empty stomach followed by guitars that so fast and furious that you seriously worry about the fingers of whoever is playing it, is one of my all time favourite moments in the history of music.  It is a song that never loses track of its melody and remains a joyous listen ever now some 33 years (!) after it was released.

There were a whole host of Wedding Present tracks that were considered for this rundown – including

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

Dalliance – The Wedding Present (1991, RCA Records, Taken from ‘Seamonsters’)

Three – The Wedding Present (1992, RCA Records Taken from ‘Hit Parade 1’)

The One Word Countdown – #22

Cold tea is the least of your worries love…..

Stan – Eminem (2000, Interscope Records, Taken from ‘The Marshall Mathers LP’)

Points 134

I find ‘Stan’ a difficult listen.  It’s the backdrop of domestic abuse, drug abuse, mental health, murder and drink driving that does that.  I know its just a song, but ‘Stan’ is so visual, be it the cinematic video, or the way that the lyrics paint such a vivid picture of mental health or the way that it even makes Dido sound wonderful.  It’s still a difficult listen.  If some songs make great short stories, then ‘Stan’ should be considered as a Whitbread Novel of the Year. 

Of course, its brilliant, but it is also dark and creepy.  It is also deliberately intentional, that is the point.  The song revolves around the eponymous character ‘Stan’ who is just a tiny bit obsessed with a rapper (Eminem).  He writes him letter after letter which get angrier the longer it takes Eminem to respond to them.  Meanwhile in the background, there is a sinister undertone of domestic abuse (and mental health caused by obsessional delusion, self-mutilation, sexual confusion and paranoia) lurking.  By the third verse, which is brutally, uncomfortably graphic, Stan has drunk a bottle of vodka, consumed a bunch of downers, punched his pregnant wife (and possibly slit her throat), tied her up in the trunk of his car and driven away, he then drives off a bridge (whether this is by mistake or deliberate is not really known). 

The fourth kicks in after all that has died down and we hear Eminem telling Stan (which, fact fans, has made it into the Oxford English Dictionary as slang for ‘Stalker Fan’) not to take his lyrics literally and pleads with him to get help and then talks about the ‘car over the bridge’ incident which he has seen on the news and the whole realisation hits him.  The way that beats stops as ‘Eminem’ suddenly realises “….It was you…” is one of raps greatest moments.  But you all know this, and if you have never heard ‘Stan’ then you probably live under a rock and are probably not reading this anyway.

According to some people ‘Stan’ is widely thought of being one of the first commercially successful tracks from the ‘Horrorcore’ genre – basically rap music that is inspired by horror films, the occult, death and all that.  Eminem does state that when he was writing it he was listening to Gravediggaz hugely influential ‘6 Feet Deep’ album – which is considered by those in the know to be the ultimate horrorcore record.  Which gives me the chance to post this.

Bang Your Head – Gravediggaz (1994, Gee Street Records, Taken from ‘6 Feet Deep’) and this

Say The Name – clipping. (2020, Sub Pop Records, Taken from ‘Visions of Bodies Being Burned’) – which is probably my favourite horrorcore record.

The One Word Countdown – #23

Oh.  Your hair is beautiful….

Atomic – Blondie (1980, Chrysalis Records, taken from ‘Eat to the Beat’)

Points 133

There was, relatively speaking, a huge gap in points between ‘Atomic’ in 23rd and ‘Chime’ in 24th.  A kind of line in the sand if you like.  Every song in the countdown from here on spent at least some time in the top ten and would feature in at least half of the jury’s final countdowns (apart from one – which we will discuss next Tuesday).  It gets kind of serious from here.

According to Debbie Harry, the line which underpins much of this classic, “Oh, your hair is beautiful”, was not written about anyone in particular.  It was according to her meaningless and simply designed to fit the melody.  When I read this I felt devastated, because when I first heard ‘Atomic’ and more importantly that line and the way that the word “Oh” sounds like, what I am going to call, an ‘excited moan’ I thought it sounded sultry, sexy and it felt rightly or wrongly (almost certainly wrongly) that Debbie was singing to me (or you, or your dad, your mum, cousin etc).  So I’m choosing not to believe her.  That above everything else made ‘Atomic’ sensationally good.

Although, to be fair, the rest of it was pretty superb as well.  That fusion of rock and dance, the crunch of the guitar combined with a pinging synth both of which was wrapped around the lyrics that smacked of a sleazy encounter somewhere and were laced with insinuation and suspicion.  The frantic nature of the rhythm as it all kicks off.  Even when I first properly listened to it – which would have been about 1989, as my dad was tidying out some of the stuff in the bottom of wardrobe and there was ‘Eat to the Beat’ on tape (alongside a bunch of other cassettes from the late 70s and early 80s) – it felt like something from the future, even though it clearly wasn’t (although the video that went with it, clearly shows that was the intention, and whilst we are there, has anyone ever worn a bin bag as well Debbie Harry did?)

‘Atomic’ was Blondie’s fourth UK Number One (their first was ‘Heart of Glass’ which ‘Atomic’ does bear a slight resemblance to)

Heart of Glass – Blondie (1979, Chrysalis Records, Taken from ‘Parallel Lines’)

A couple of other Blondie tracks were sort of considered, but neither are as good as ‘Atomic’ although the first one is a decent alternative.

Rapture – Blondie (1981, Chrysalis Records, Taken from ‘Autoamerican’)

Denis – Blondie (1978, Chrysallis Records, Taken from ‘Plastic Letters’)

Maria – Blondie (1999, Logic Records, Taken from ‘No Exit’)

The One Word Countdown – #24

A record that cost less than £1 to make….

Chime (Live) – Orbital (1991, FFRR Records, Taken from ‘Orbital (Green)’)

Points 124

Whenever a set of votes dropped into my inbox from one the Musical Jury TM  I tried to guess which act would come out on top.  Some of them did surprise me (Walter for one, with his leftfield pick of ‘Revolution’ by Spacemen 3), some of them didn’t (Hey JC).  I knew before I’d even opened the email which track would top the votes of Jury Member Number 2.

That track was ‘Chime’ by Orbital and it is a song that I have waxed lyrical about on here before.  It was of course recorded in a home made studio for about 70p, and when it charted the band were invited to perform it live on Top of the Pops.  Frustrated by not being able to perform live the brothers Hartnoll stood on stage chatting to each other, occasionally twiddling a knob or two, whilst a dancer strutted away on a podium distractedly.  It is one of the all time best Top of the Pops performances.  It annoyed the BBC so much that it was six year before the band were invited back onto the programme again.

If ‘Chime’ hadn’t been on the list of songs to vote for, I think that Jury Member 2 would have simply scrawled it onto the top of the list regardless such is his love for this track. 

There are of course various different versions of ‘Chime’.  The ‘live’ version which is above is taken from the bands seminal ‘Green Album’ and at six minutes is probably the most accessible version.  The extended version clocks in at well over ten minutes but if you want to get a party going (because my readership is all about ten minute rave anthems) and you have it to hand then its worth sticking on.

Chime (Extended Version) – Orbital (1990, OhZone Records, Taken from 12”)

I’m also quite partial to the Octave One Mix

There were several other Orbital songs that could have made the list but I very much doubt that they would have done as well as ‘Chime’

Satan – Orbital (1990, FFRR Records, Taken from ‘Orbital III EP’) – which whilst we are here contains a sample from this

Monday – Orbital (1993, FFRR Records, Taken from ‘Orbital (Brown)’)

The One Word Countdown – #25

I must be losing my mind….

Lazarus (12-inch version) – Boo Radleys (1993, Creation Records, Taken from ‘Giant Steps)

Points 123

During the cultural period in our lives that we now affectively called ‘The Lockdown’, I signed up to a few ‘Running Challenges’ one of these was ‘Run 50 miles during April’.    This doesn’t sound so bad – given that some people (my brother for instance) run 50 miles for fun over a weekend across the South West Coast Path.   For me, it was a proper challenge, and one that very nearly finished me off.

I had a plan, do my usual six or seven miles on a Sunday, which would easily take me to 30 miles and then fill in the rest of the runs by jogging back from the school runs (about a mile or two miles if I go ‘the long way’).  At first it was easy and by April 15th I was well on target.  I was fortunate because the sun was shining, and my daughter didn’t mind walking to school.  Then it rained nonstop for about a week, and she understandably was not so keen. 

By the last week of April, I had about 14 miles to do.  On April 30th the last day that was down to eight and so off I trudged around the village where I live, jogging up ridiculously big hills and hurtling down to the river and slowly making my way back up again.  As ever I was accompanied by my trusty iPod Nano, which kept me going with randomly selected tunes.  As I approached the 50th mile of the month, ‘Lazarus’ came on and I dragged my sorry arse up the hill for what I was telling myself would be ‘Absolutely the last time.  Ever’ (it wasn’t) Sice’s breathy vocals told me “I Must be losing my mind….” and right there and then I couldn’t have agreed with him more. 

Absolute madness I told myself.  But then the voice on the running app built into my Nano (some American runner who I have never heard of) pipes up and tells me ‘Congratulations…’ and I am suddenly grinning.  I stop running I’m about half a mile from home, my groin aches, my calves ache, my tshirt is soaked in sweat, my face looks like an overboiled beetroot, and I whisper “Never do this to yourself again” to myself.

Two months later I sign up for the “Run 50 miles in July” Challenge. 

‘Lazarus’ is of course one of the greatest songs ever recorded (about seventh I would say).  The 12” version is the superior version, they way the dubby beat winds itself up, before a short wave of noise overcomes it and a hailstorm of trumpets and guitars kick in – it sends shivers up my arm every time I hear it. It’s utterly marvellous and I simply never tire of listening to it.

There are load of decent remixes of it as well – these two are my favourites

Lazarus (Augustus Pablo Mix) – The Boo Radleys (1993, Creation Records, taken from ‘Giant Steps – Expanded’) – which does lovely things with that dubby start and manages to add an acoustic guitar to the mix somehow.

Lazarus (Ultramarine Mix) – The Boo Radleys (1993, Creation Records, taken from ‘Lazarus 12”) – which again plays heavily on the dub influenced start and the trumpet bit. 

I’d also recommend the Saint Etienne Mix