Saturday 27 October 2018

My bestest most favouritest songs ever ever - part 5

Time for another one of these!  I was shocked to find the last time I posted one was nearly two years ago; it feels like about three months...

Anyway, this is another one of those songs which sounds absolutely brilliant every single time I hear it and never loses its status or appeal (which is the point of this series!) but in particular it takes me back to an exciting period when I was discovering new old music.  As I was working in the record shop it was easier to order all sorts of obscure items from all sorts of obscure labels, plus get a staff discount -  suffice to say it seemed I was bringing home a new album just about every week.

Up until that point I'd always most enjoyed music that was current at the time of listening, so it was quite an adventure to explore an unfamiliar genre from the past. I first heard this particular song around 1985 I think, by which time it was nearly 20 years old.  To my 22-year old self, that meant it was bloody ancient.  Now, of course if I spool back 20 years, a mere blink of an eyelid ago, I realise it's me who's bloody ancient.

But never mind all that, because this is timeless.  My first awareness of its existence in the '80s was thanks to a brilliant compilation album: 'Perfumed Garden Vol 1' , put out by the Psycho label.  It grabbed me right from the off with its dirty, grungy, overdriven guitar intro.  The vocals are nicely rough too, and that insistent riff just keeps on going.  I had no idea until then that anything in the sixties could sound quite this punk; I thought the Stones and the Kinks were about as hard as it gets, so it came as a revelation.

'You're Too Much' was originally put out as a B-side in May 1966 (the A-side, 'Man With Money' still sounds fine to my ears but is not a patch on this).

As for the band - I wrote a piece about them in a fanzine in 1986 (shocking to think that is now longer ago than the original gap between the record's release and my hearing it).  So my research has already been done and I'll just reproduce it here...

The Eyes were a young band from Ealing who picked up a culty mod following in the mid sixties.  They supported such bands as The Action, The Kinks and The Move.  Their 'gimmick' was to wear colourful, amusing clothes - stripey Rugby shirts, bleached jeans, pink parkas with tyre tracks inked on the backs and red or yellow boots.  (Also for added decoration - big eyes sewn onto their tops!)

After 4 singles (the last one of which was a flop), an EP, and a disguised album, the band split up, and vocalist Terry was the only member to pursue a serious musical career.  He joined 'Andromeda' for a while but never recorded with them, then became vocalist for 'The Entire Sioux Nation' with Larry Wallis (who later became a Pink Fairy), Jim Taylor and Paul Nichols.

Anyway - onto the song.  It would be an understatement to say I just fucking love it.

The Eyes:  You're Too Much
(originally released May 1966)

The Eyes in rugby shirts and bleached jeans (1966)

The whole piece from the fanzine (1986)

Wednesday 24 October 2018


It’s official.  Everyone else is better at everything else than I am.  I know this because I’ve just been looking at some random Pinterest and Instagram pages in the course of some research and all my fears were confirmed.  Everyone has beautiful homes, beautiful children, beautiful gardens, makes beautiful things, has beautiful pets, beautiful clothes, beautiful hobbies, bakes beautiful cakes and, although there’s no visual confirmation, I think we can safely say they probably have beautiful bowels capable of excreting the most perfectly formed faeces.  

It has become apparent that I’m just not up to scratch.  A snapshot of the desk I'm sitting at now would reveal an old birdfood catalogue tucked into a notebook, a scrunched up tissue, a blunt pencil and a chipped plastic ruler,  a random postcard from Madrid and a flash drive still in its torn cardboard packaging.  I am sitting here in my bobbly old jumper and slippers with worn-out soles, contemplating whether or not to defrost the freezer which has an ice monster growing in it so big that it could no doubt restore the melting polar ice caps single-handedly.  Only it’s full of crumbs too.  Beautiful pets?  Could you count my newly-acquired composting worms?  I’ve got some nicely rotting vegetable peelings to feed them in a moment.  Alternatively I could finally remove the last traces of blue polish from the tips of the nails on my big toes because it has been on them since… August? Or was it July? 

I was thinking of opening up one of those photo-sharing accounts to share some images of my beautifully imperfect life.  Would anyone like to see it?  I could show you the inside of my oven!

Thursday 18 October 2018

Shout out to my unsung heroes #1

Late afternoon, high Summer, sunshine, warm water.   I was elated; I had just managed to propel myself across from one end to the other – only the shortest distance, but still -  my first width! With no armbands!

Do you remember that feeling when you learned to swim?  The moment of transition, I mean. Much like learning to ride a bike - the first time you manage it unaided comes as a big surprise.  There’s a sense of disbelief.  In your head:  Are you sure no-one's pushing me?  Are you sure there’s nobody helping? 

And then, it sinks in: there’s no turning back, you won’t lose it, you’ve got the knack, you’ve got it!  and you’re away.  There are still things to learn, but the biggest block of all – the lack of confidence to try – has been conquered.

Mine happened in Mrs E’s back garden.  There was a small group of us, we were about nine or ten years old.   The school trips to the local indoor pool had been awful for us.  We were the inferiors in this scenario; we couldn’t join the main activities because we hadn’t yet learned to swim.  So the teacher cordoned us off in a tiny secton of the shallow end, gave us armbands and (pretty useless) polystyrene floats, shouted out a few instructions which made us feel worse (it wasn’t instructions we needed, it was understanding) and treated us as a major inconvenience to their proceedings.  Fellow classmates dived and jumped in at the deep end and we just tiptoed about nervously, never daring to venture beyond where our feet could touch the floor, not believing our clumsy little bodies were ever designed to float.    I already hated Rounders, I dreaded Sports Day and now Swimming was another thing I couldn't do properly.  You know, it still irks me today that my school experience in general (both primary and secondary) didn’t place as much value in the ability to draw pictures as it did in running or hitting a ball.  How different things might have felt if it had.

However, Mrs E came to the rescue, and here I am writing about her because I started thinking about the unsung heroes in my life – nothing grand or dramatic, nobody saved me from sinking in quicksand or from falling down a well, but there are people I think of whose inspiration in one form or other made a huge personal difference.

She had this little pool in her back garden and had come to some arrangement with my school to start teaching the non-swimmers in small private groups each week.   No more trips to the local indoor baths with their stench of chlorine and fiddly lockers.  That Summer in her garden she nurtured my confidence with great patience, kindness and individual attention, until after a number of lessons everything just fell into place.  I'll never forget that moment, just as I'll never forget the cycling one either.  Anyway, it was just something she did and enjoyed, and once I’d learned there was no need to go back and I was off to secondary school and I hardly ever saw her again, nor had much reason to think of her.  But all these years on I realise what a simple difference she made - not that I do a lot of swimming these days but the point is:  I know I can.  Any time I’ve ever lowered myself into a pool, fooled around in a lake, or let the salty waves of the sea support me as they rise and fall and tangle seaweed round my feet, I  should thank Mrs E for teaching me to trust in myself.

Wire: Our Swimmer

Wednesday 10 October 2018

Name that tune

A very quick lazy post today, but this clever and original music-related artwork really appeals.  As someone who thinks visually (often to my detriment), loves nature and who has difficulty remembering lyrics, I think I’d like every one of my favourite songs to be illustrated by graphic artist Katrina McHugh.

Take a look here.....

Saturday 6 October 2018

More dancing boys for your delectation

Some may call it kinky.  It certainly is a little perverse.   Maybe you share my thing; and if so, it’s okay, you’re safe to admit it here and we can wallow in our weird taste together:

The strangely compelling fascination for the unconventional footwork (and hipwork and armwork and more)  of certain musical men.

I indulged in this personal fixation here a few years ago, and treated you (I hope) to the tantalizing delights of the one and only mind-bendingly raunchy Jim Dandy...

Quite possibly my favourite pic of all time

...closely followed by Samuel T Herring from Future Islands, a goody-goody tambourine-wielding tootsie-pie from the 1910 Fruitgum Company and those Fine Young elastic-legged Cannibals.  Take another peek here at the clips if you like. But this is the gift that keeps on giving and I have more…

…like Jason Williamson from Sleaford Mods.  The first time I really, really took proper notice of Sleaford Mods was when I watched this performance.  It’s utterly compelling, in so many ways – but it’s Jason’s feet and hands which give me that extra tingly feeling, the one which leads me to press Rewind and Play over and over again.  The more he says no….. the more I think yes.  Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes.

So Mr Williamson, what have you done to find gainful employment?

Q. What’s the opposite of a Sleaford Mod?  A. A Moody Blue, I’d say - I do like these random contrasts.  Yet, still they have something in common, something so subtle and sublime that you really have to see it to believe it….  if you have a look at this performance by the Moody Blues of ‘Ride My See Saw’ from 1968, keep your eyes on the moustachioed maitre d’ in the dickie bow, otherwise known as Ray Thomas.  In the first 35 seconds his legs/feet positively shimmer.  By the time we get to 1m 42 seconds he starts to slowly wind up his arms with the tiny remote control secreted in his left hand and then goes for it with a very brief but oh so perfect peak – the elbow flourish. Stay with the song for another minute or so for a further glimpse of his slippery soles and whisking wrists.

I'll ride your see saw, baby.

Are you into it?  Oh go on, say you are, do.

If you're a similar age to me (but perhaps only in the UK) maybe you also remember Music And Movement sessions at school from when you were maybe around five or six?  You could be anything, a tree blowing in the wind, a train trundling down the tracks, in a parquet-floored hall which smelt of Mr Sheen, in your vest and pants and your little black plimsolls.   Just like Thom Yorke, I think.  Well, not the vest and pants.  Never mind the  momentary moves just posted above, so fleeting and so teasing - we want more.

So let me leave you with Radiohead and the very memorable video for Lotus Flower. A full five minutes of frolicsome free-form - I just can't look away!

I would so love to see people dance like this at a wedding.

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