Counting up from 2 – #10 – Eleven

Mornings Eleven – The Magic Numbers (2005, Capitol Records, Taken from ‘The Magic Numbers’)

When I was eleven I went to grammar school.   On my first day, I remember walking to school with a lad called Graham whose mum owned the local sweet shop.  She stuffed our oversized blazer pockets with bags of liquorice allsorts and jelly beans before we walked nervously down the road to the school.  

You hear rumours about new schools, the way that a bullies pick on first years and flush their heads down the toilet or use you as a goalpost.  These rumours were all discussed by Graham and I as we walked to school our teeth blackened by the liquorice. Graham and I decided that it would be Michael, an annoying lad from our old school who would be first to get his head flushed down the toilet.

On arrival we were all herded like sheep in a large room that the school called the Wind Tunnel and there, in something that when I look back on it, was probably the inspiration for JK Rowling’s Sorting Hat Ceremony, we were placed into houses. 

It wasn’t as glamourous as the Hogwarts thing, your name was read out and you went and stood in a line behind the sour face looking teacher, and then you were lead up some manky stairs which had chewing gums stuck under the plastic bannisters, to your form room.  I was placed in Newton.  A house named after Isaac Newton, the man who along with gravity also invented the cat flap and stood as an MP (incidentally Isaac Newton’s only recorded contribution to the smooth running of government as an MP, was asking if the window in the chambers could be closed – absolutely true).

 We were given a red stripe (a piece of material, not sadly, a can of the Jamaican lager) which was to sit just above the badge on our oversized blazers.  Our teacher was a PE Teacher, who like most PE Teachers appeared to spend his entire life in a tracksuit and only ever wrote in capital letters.  He left the school a year or two later, under a bit of a cloud of scandal, something involving a science teacher and some chloroform, but I forget exactly what.   

To make things easier, the teacher told us to sit next to the person whose name was next to yours in the register.  That meant I got to sit next to a girl called Paula – she later became smelly Paula after she fell head first into a cow pat on a school trip to a farm.  In front of us were Vicky and Allan – Allan later became an actor of some note, as he appeared in at least one episode of the Bill, and two episodes of Casaulty and an advert for Converse Trainers.   Allan was a favourite with all the girls and before the end of year eight was dating girls two or three years older than him.  He also loved U2 and would regularly repeat Ben Elton’s comedy routines from Friday Night Live word for word on a Monday morning to an adoring crowd. 

Behind us sat Nick (who later became Smelly Nick, because, well he had BO and no concept of soap) and Zoe.  Zoe had the sort of permed hair that you only ever saw sad old ladies with.  She looked like she was 65 when she was 11.   As first days go, it was pretty rubbish.  My first week wasn’t much better, I tried for the football team, didn’t get in.  The centre forward places going to two lads from another house, called David and Richard, both infinitely quicker and more talented than me

XI – Richard Dawson (2013, alt.vinyl records, taken from ‘The Glass Trunk’)

By the end of the first week I had became the first person in Newton to get a detention, something which at least made me slightly more interesting for about a week.  This was handed out by a complete bastard of a science teacher called Mr Duncan, who dished out detentions like vicars dish out words of advice.  My crime, putting the Bunsen Burner back in the wrong place.

#11 – Aphex Twin (1994, Warp Records, Taken from ‘Selected Ambient Works Vol. 11)

Counting Up From Two – #3 Four

Four – Jagwar Ma (2013, Mom + Pop Records, Taken from ‘Howlin’’)

It was ball four of my first over for the Tobacco Bay Cricket Team when I realised that I was not going to be a first class cricketer.  I realised this because the batsman had just whacked the ball back over my head for six runs and my team mates were shaking their heads and the captain had his head in his hand.  I wouldn’t mind but two of the previous three balls had also been hit for boundaries as well.  I’d put the first one down to nerves, and the second one down to luck, but this third one was simply down to the fact that I’m not good enough to play.   Which is true, I am literally making up the numbers.

You see one hour ago, I stepped off the number 5 bus from the Bermudian capital Hamilton to St Georges and my plan was to take a walk along the coast to Tobacco Bay and check out a new bar there called Buccaneers.  The walk takes me straight past a small cricket ground, where a chap – let’s call him Darren – runs over and asks me if I would like to play a game of cricket as his team are one short.  I tell him that I haven’t played cricket in something like ten years (its more like 20 to be fair) but I can bowl a “pretty good yorker” – which is just words, I couldn’t bowl a yorker if you paid me in Yorkies. This rather blatant lie is now being exposed but the burly West Indian chap who is smacking me all over the place.   I might as well be chucking pies at him.  First over, no wickets, fourteen runs.  Not good.  Darren tells me to go and field “Out by the boundary” I grab my hat and wander off.  It’s a nice spot to stand actually, if I look away from the game I see people snorkelling.   I clap encouragement every now and again to try and look like I at least seem to know what I am talking about.  Then I get the chance to redeem myself, the Viv Richards wannabe has thumped the ball in my direction and my team mates are shouting “Catch” in my general direction. 

Which I get nowhere near obviously.  The ball bounces in a sort of no mans land, I do manage to stop a certain boundary about two minutes later, which earns me a solitary clap from Clarence, he’s standing on the boundary watching and keeps telling me that “It’s not my day”.  Clarence is eighty years old and he will tell me to overs later that I have the cricketing technique of an armadillo.   Half an hour later I get the chance to bowl again, luckily for me the batsmen are not as good as earlier, and on ball three I mutter “Howzat!” on the off chance that I might have the batter leg before (its nowhere near and I know it the second I mutter the “How” bit).   The umpire looks at me, he is a very English chap called Raif and he says “You sure old man?” I shake my head dismally.  Second over no wickets for twenty runs.  I don’t get asked to bowl again. 

In the break, Darren asks me where I would usually bat.  Now the last time I batted in a match I batted at six and thwacked the ball all over the shop because I was playing for the Scouts against other Scouts who were even worse at this game than I am now.  I’m sure I got 33 in nine balls or something.  I suspect this might be slightly tougher, so I say “Ooh eight or nine”.  I’m marked down at 11.  Which is the last man.  I am the last turkey on the shelf.

The teams batting doesn’t go well.  We are going to lose, heavily and with eight balls to go, it is my moment in the spotlight.  I check the scoreboard we need 30 off these eight balls.  Its doable, especially as Mac our best player is the one being bowled at and not me.  I walk to the crease and do a few air shots.  Mac looks at me “Just block it man and run a single if you get the chance”, he says with a Jamaican twang.  Mac hits the next two balls for four.  Meaning we need 22 from the last six balls, but at least one of those balls is coming to me.

Mac is talking to me again “Quick Single Man” he says.  I nod.  I’m petrified, the bowler is about eight foot tall and has dreadlocks that could strangle a man.  He tears down the pitch and bowls and I do a passable impression of an idiot trying to swat a fly but somehow, god knows how, I connect with the ball and its flies away, sort of.  I stand there and look for the ball “Run, fool” shouts Mac. Which I do. 

There is no Hollywood ending.  Mac thwacks the ball some more but it’s pointless we need eleven off the last ball and I get to face it.  Dreadlock man comes tearing down again and I get nowhere near the ball this time.  I hear a clunk and look round to see my wicket collapsing behind me.  I hear Mac tut.  He trudges off, and I follow to the sound of Clarence’s solitary clap.   I don’t get asked to play again, and the next time I go to Tobacco Bay I get off the bus a stop earlier and walk the long way round.

Your Four Walls – Odd Morris (2020,self released single)

4 – Aphex Twin (1996, Warp Records, Taken from ‘Richard D James’)

Counting Up From Two – #2 – Three

Three Friends – The Levellers (1990, China Records, Taken from ‘A Weapon Called the Word’)

My dad told me a few years ago that I had my first birthday party aged three.  I was so excited about having all my playgroup friends around that in the space of seven minutes I wet myself and was sick all over my new jumper.  My new jumper was blue and was hand knitted by my nan and it had two feet in pink on the front, so it looked like someone had walked over my jumper and then puked on their own feet.

I don’t remember this party.  According to my dad I had three friends over, two boys and a girl and we played with my new train set until I was sick and then the parents scooped up their little ones and went home.  Six months later, aged three and a half I tripped over that train set in a rush to get a Matchbox mini car out from under the cupboard and fractured my fibia as I landed in heap on the cold linoleum floor. 

Three Decades – The Horrors (2008, XL Records, Taken from ‘Primary Colours’)

I was woken up at two thirty AM on my thirtieth birthday by some people singing ‘Happy Birthday’ really loudly.  Sadly I didn’t know any of them, and they were not singing it to me as they were singing it in Flemish.  This was because I was in Brussels and the hotel we were staying overlooked a square which for some reason had about 30 drunk people dancing around a fountain singing well wishes to an unknown person.  My wife turned in bed over looked at the clock, realised that I had just turned thirty and sleepily said “What they said” and fell back to asleep.  I eventually fell back to sleep again and then woke up and promptly went (temporarily) deaf in my right ear.  Old age had apparently arrived.    

For a slap up birthday meal we had a takeaway pizza from ‘Toni’s Pizzeria ‘and cherry beer purchased from tiny off licence in an area of Brussels called Louise.  The pizza remains to this day one of the greatest takeaways pizzas I have ever had.   The following day we were stopped from going within one hundred feet of some government building that we wanted to look around because Tony Blair was visiting so we sat in a coffee shop on Luxembourg Square and ate cake instead.

#3 – Aphex Twin (1994, Warp Records, Taken from ‘Selected Ambient Works Vol 2’)

My daughters third birthday was spoilt by a giant spider.  It wasn’t real but it was a massive plastic one hung from the ceiling of the tiny café that is tacked ono the tram station at Colyton, East Devon.  It was part of their decorations for their forthcoming ‘Ghostly Tram Ride’ that tram company were running in about two weeks (my daughters birthday being in Mid October).  She took one bite of her ‘Special Birthday Sandwich’ looked up saw the giant spider, and as she was already shaky from the skull with its eyes hanging out (they were painted marbles on a pipe cleaner) refused to sit in the café for another second.  The crappy plastic gravestones didn’t help either nor the fact they were playing the sodding Monster Mash on repeat.

We’d been having fun up to that point.  My daughter whooping and cheering as the tram hurtled through the East Devon countryside at 10mph “Its really fast now, Daddy” she would yell every two minutes or so.  Despite the fact that I could at times literally have ran faster, whilst carrying my daughter on my back. 

Next Week – The Number Four.

The One Word Countdown – #30

The rundown’s most prolific contributor….

Theme – Sabres of Paradise (1994, Warp Records, Taken from ‘Haunted Dancehall’

Points 118

I think this might be the fourth week in a row that a track involving in Andy Weatherall has featured in this rundown.  I may as well change the blog name to ‘Bagging Area II’ and be done with it (not that I am in anyway worthy).  Anyway, of all the Andy Weatherall musical projects that have come and gone – and the aforementioned Bagging Area blog is a far greater place to read about them than here – Sabres of Paradise are my favourite.  It is a travesty that ‘Haunted Dancehall’, the second studio album by Sabres of Paradise didn’t achieve more than it did commercially.  It is an album that captures that after party feel perfectly – and (spoiler) it is one that will feature in the Nearly Perfect Album Series at some point.

I first heard ‘Theme’ – a track which was as close as the band came to actually having a proper hit (number 54 with a bullet) courtesy of a dance CD that I got sent when I was DJing.  I forget the name, but it also had a version of Analogue Bubblebath by Aphex Twin on it – and it may have been a Warp Records sampler, but I genuinely can’t remember, and I don’t appear to have it anymore.  Which was a shame because it was one that almost got me kicked out of the university indie society for the heinous crime of liking a CD that didn’t contain many guitars.  It might have been in the pile of CDs stolen by a bloke called Frank whilst my back was turned on the old ones and twos at university.  Might have just lost it, in a drunken haze, or lent it out and never asked for it back.  Who knows.

Analogue Bubblebath – Aphex Twin (1991, Mighty Force Records, Taken from ‘Analogue Bubblebath Vol 1’)

It’s essential Weatherall, a twisted, dubby beat, that has this almost metallic clang running through it that compliments a whole world of musical sounds.  It packs in a (sampled) brass section, a chugging, niggly, guitar riff that sounds like it comes from a car advert, a pounding, hypnotic African drum interlude and a bassline that sounds like a train going up a hill.  It is blended all together in only a way that Mr Weatherall and his bandmates know how to and the result is just astonishingly good.

There were of course one other track that were considered, one of them was ‘Wilmot’ which has one of the finest rewinds ever recorded.

Wilmot – Sabres of Paradise (1994, Warp Records) – it contains a hefty element of ‘Black but Sweet’ by Wilmoth Houdini (something that was brought to my attention by….Mr Bagging Area)

100 Songs with One Word Titles (55 – 51)

And so our jaunty hike through the lower regions of the Greatest Songs with One Word Titles comes to an end.  We’ve reached the virtual café at the end of the path if you like.  Next week I will deal with one number a day, but before then there are of course a few loose ends to tie up.  The song that was lying in 8th place after five votes were counted, was ‘Hysteria’ by Muse but then thankfully the Gods of Common Sense intervened and the normal bashing of prog rock mentalists from South Devon begun.   Moving on….

55. Sliver – Nirvana (1990, Sub Pop Records, Taken from ‘Incesticide’)

About halfway through ‘Sliver’ you can pretty much pinpoint the exact moment that Nirvana crossed from being a Black Sabbath influenced rock band into a more punk orientated band with one eye on success.  Whilst I will happily admit that it was ‘Nevermind’ and more probably ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ that gave me my first introduction to Nirvana (although I did see their 1991 Reading Show), it was ‘Sliver’ on 12” that actually turned my head as to how amazing they were.

54. Sun – Caribou (2010, City Slang Records, Taken from ‘Swim’)

‘Sun’ is a terrific blast of throbbing tech house.  It bleeps and tweeks and sparkles, whilst a techno house beat throbs away wonderfully.  It’s kind of the musical equivalent of walking through a wood at dusk, as the sunlight breaks through the trees every now again. The distorted voice that just repeats the word ‘Sun’ over and over again adds to the dazzling nature.

53. Original – Leftfield (1995, Sony Music, Taken from ‘Leftism’)

A track that only featured on here a few days ago, when the magnificent ‘Leftism’ was given the ‘Nearly Perfect’ Treatment.  I’ll repeat myself a bit if that’s ok .  ‘Original’ is magnificent, it was back in 1995 when it first surfaced and it remains so today.  It is a slow paced dubhop (If that even exists) that is brooding and menacing and Toni Halliday from Curve never sounded as good as she did here.

52. Windowlicker – Aphex Twin (1999, Warp Records)

‘Windowlicker’ was according to Richard D James, inspired by eerie lounge music that soundtracks porn films.  Whether this actually true or not is anyone’s guess.  Remember Richard D James once started the rumour that he told Madonna that the he would only remix one of her songs if she let him record her grunting like a pig, and people believed that.  Although it is absolutely possible that ‘Windowlicker’ is inspired by porn soundtracks because it is downright sleazy and full of distorted groans of some form of carnal pleasure (and its bloody ace).

And finally…

51. Queen – Perfume Genius (2014, Matador Records, Taken from ‘Too Bright’) The bottom half of the Top 100 is topped by the wonderful ‘Queen’ by Perfume Genius, another track that has already been on this blog once already – as part of the not very much missed but definitely coming back ‘Never Ending Playlist’ in the early ‘ramshackle’ days of No Badger Required. Its one of the few songs that exist that have a wordless chorus, with Mike Hadreaus just letting a tuneful groan. 

Nearly Perfect Albums #26

Drukqs – Aphex Twin

I know I have probably said this before but of all the bands and artists that appear on this list, it was the Aphex Twin that caused me the most selection problems.  Because, any of his releases could have made this list, well apart from ‘Selected Ambient Works Vol 1’ because that is actually perfect and therefore barred from this list.  For a long time I was going with ‘I Care You Because You Do’ and then I was going with ‘Richard D James’ but in the end I went with the 30 track, 100 minute epic that is ‘Drukqs’ with its impenetrable songs titles and its classical piano interludes.

Kladfvgbubg Micshk – Aphex Twin (2001, Warp Records)

The first time I ever listened to ‘Drukqs’ I was driving to Bristol for a meeting.  I remember constantly fiddling with the volume knob, turning up the ambient hums and then frantically turning down the splintered breakbeats and scary squelchy noises. 

It’s a wonderful listen, the music on it ranges from drum n bass that frankly pounds you in the face repeatedly and then runs off laughing in true Aphex style.  It has techno that people with well-manicured beards would say is ‘intellectual’.  It has techno that is so mad it would make a horse dribble with excitement.  It has early 90s rave flashbacks, it has 80s style electro workouts, it even has Richard D James’ parents singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to him and on one occasion, it has what sounds like a backward version of ‘Silent Night’ performed by a team of amateur belllringers.  Naturally its all total genius, well apart from the track ‘Bit 4’ which appears to be nothing more than an electronic groan, but even that doesn’t seem out of place.

Btoum- rounada – Aphex Twin (2001, Warp Records)

Lornaderek – Aphex Twin (2001, Warp Records)

As I’ve kind of hinted above, it’s a proper mismash of an album, with no tracks across the 100 minutes sounding anywhere near similar to each one. It’s never dull and is always original.  You get regular dancefloor bangers mingling with ambient abstract piano interludes. Piano interludes like this

Avril 14th – Aphex Twin (2001, Warp Records)

Which on its own has have over 134 million plays on various streaming sites, thanks to its use by Kanye West, John Legend, and various films.  Effectively ‘Avril 14th’ is the biggest hit that Aphex never had.

The best track comes near the end, the eight minute monolith that is ‘Ziggomatic 17’ which flits between being a straight down the line jungle banger to a four to floor rave anthem, it can’t make up it mind and its all the better for it. 

Ziggomatic 17 – Aphex Twin (2001, Warp Records)