Dear Webcore, to wish you a very Happy 60th Birthday, here’s a long short story written to a secret formula by a team of your fellow Recommenders. We hope you don’t mind making an exception to your non-fiction habit, seeing as it’s such a special occasion. The RR writers’ workshop takes strange delight in presenting:
V Valentino, propelled by a whirl of thoughts, turned and beckoned to his legs, urging them to please keep up. Two steady elements – his non-beckoning hand holding the flat bottle in his pocket, a little more firmly as he crossed the bridge with its view of the drop between the iron railings; and directions committed to memory as he turned right at the bridge end and the river’s murmur emerged from the receding traffic noise. The river reflected muscovado in the last drops of sunset and the early fizz of street lamps. There was a party of special things to do. Continue reading
Wilson Pickett’s 634-5789 is, of course, a song about telephones. It swings like the saloon doors in a wild west film, and swaggers like a cowboy who just got paid. Pickett shows off his voice, his peerless backing band and his prowess. If there is a promise of tenderness in the slightly awkward, no more lonely nights, will you be alone, this is swept away by the middle eight’s proviso that he might be just a little bit late; presumably from an earlier assignment. By this point, the phone number is becoming secondary to that swagger; and my teenage self, from our topic the week before, is feeling a little envious of Mr Pickett. Maybe he can wait until we do RR Bragging Songs (now that would be a busy week)…
The Carter Family’s Hello Central, Give Me Heaven reminds me of Arthur C Clarke’s law, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. A bereavement psychologist would describe as “magical thinking”, how the young girl connects the stories she’s been told about heaven, with the unfathomable capabilities of the telephone. William Bell and Judy Clay’s Private Number, in the decades I’ve known the song, had never made me wonder what they did while he was away ? They clearly didn’t call each other or write, because he wouldn’t have come back to town unaware of her new number. So it’s really a song about not telephoning, suggesting that it’s such a frustrating way to keep in touch, it’s better just to wait.
Musing like this can keep me occupied for hours, in a place that MummyP calls “away in Readers Recommend-Land”, and is one of the two best things I found about being an RR guru. The other is the duty to listen to things I wouldn’t normally pick out of the blog. Six of the twelve A-listers were songs I hadn’t heard before. Of these, I might have listened to two in a normal week, a further two in a good week, and two more – plus several additional great tunes besides – I would’ve passed over.
The two worst things were, firstly, the brutal arithmetic that meant cutting songs off once I knew they weren’t going to make the list. I hate cutting a song short, but the equation says:
N (nominations) x D (song duration) >;>; T (available time)
Secondly, the lack of sleep. Even with two days of annual leave, and MummyP’s understanding and support, it was increasingly past my bedtime for 4 nights, until my e-mail to Adam with the article at 3.30am on the Tuesday. Family life with young children means that guruing might have to be just an annual treat for me. Next time, I might take more notice of Shane’s point that, if there’s nothing to grab you and suggest you’re going to like a song, there’s no obligation to listen.
Like Shane again, and Fuel, I drew on the compilation tapes of my youth (too long ago for me to have called them ‘Mixtapes’). There are many branches of the guruological art. My playlist could’ve been like a party tape or an impress-somebody tape, or just my twelve favourites without worrying about the playlist. The article could’ve had quotes from recommenders or a simple reason why I like each song. Each method would’ve produced a different A-list, and each one would’ve been just fine.
The Marconium is brilliant, definitely DO remember to use it – but I stopped checking every single song against it, because it seemed to interrupt the flow of listening. I waited until I had 30 or so “contenders” before checking.
Recommenders’ justifications and musings are your best friends ! They can be food for thought about the topic as a whole, as well as the particular song. Therefore, working via the blog is definitely best, in whatever order suits you, rather than listening in Spotify / ‘Box’ order, very handy though both places are.
I’d say do the first draft of your article and playlist fairly early on. I had the first version, with a few gaps, about halfway through my listening. There were plenty of changes, but it helped to have the shape of things; and it meant the B-list almost took care of itself. The second half of my listening became easier, a mini-tournament of new songs v the draft selections.
Don’t forget the ‘flow’ of a playlist. I thought I had a great list and decent article just after midnight on Tuesday, but I looked again and realised the pacing felt all wrong. Tough to make changes, especially when every rejig means a redraft.
I did regret at times, my comment that it was a week for ‘if in doubt, shout it out’. But I wouldn’t have wanted to miss out on any songs because someone had hesitated over its sufficiency of telephones. I was grateful for all who wrote and justified, and for every little bit of information about what’s ‘zedded’, but shouting out songs is what we do best.
Here follows my A-list. I know that recommenders will have moved on to the new topic, but nevertheless I’ll rebuild my sandcastle here, mostly for myself, and in case it suits anyone to listen to with the Sunday ironing or washing-up.
Inspired by Shane’s revelation that he has a Shona dictionary to assist with Bhundu Boys nominations, and a reminiscent mood caused by turning 50 last month, my thoughts wander to 25 years ago this month, half my lifetime, when I was Students’ Union President at the Cranfield Institute of Technology. Where the *#~* is Cranfield ?!? may well be your first thought.
Well, it’s between Bedford and Milton Keynes, near junction 14 of the M1. It was an airfield, then an aeronautical institute, then a university proudly calling itself an Institute of Technology, and since I was there has given in and calls itself a University. The Students’ Union was a small group of us trying to promote social life and student welfare on an isolated campus dedicated to profitable selling of technology and learning.
My predecessor had revived, surprisingly and successfully, the tradition of the Graduation Ball, and we were not a team to shirk a challenge. We had no hesitation in dedicating ourselves to seeking out the best music and comedy we could afford. Continue reading
My 50th birthday party at Leeds contained within it a small seed of RR social. Rocking Mitch rocked up with the rest of the Rocking Gold Stars, and Ali and TFD rocked up to join the fun. Such was their dedication, and my lack of attention to the train times, that they missed the last sensible train to Huddersfield (and thence to Ali’s house) to watch the end of the set, and caught the 2.30am after a long, chilly wait at Leeds station. It was a good party enjoyed by all, with not only the Rocking Gold Stars, but Leeds’ own Pink Peg Slax providing the rock’n’roll, and the venue possessing the kind of acoustic sought after by 1950s record producers. Mitch rolled out some spectacular bass playing, and showed his vocal range, the stand-in guitarist Lou did justice to the tone and look of his Scotty Moore copy guitar, and Ralph on drums kept them well in order.
There was dancing, quite a lot of it from me, some great versions of Gene Vincent, Johnny Cash (Mitch has the voice !), Richard Thompson and (as Mr K-Tel used to say) many others.
I’m afraid the photos aren’t brilliant, the walls of the venue were very reflective and the lights were, as they should be, low. Thanks everyone for birthday wishes, and special thanks to Ali and TFD for making the trip on a cold northern night !
I’ve been e-mailing RR people and using Facebook, but just in case I’ve missed anyone, here’s a party invitation ! It would be lovely to have some RR mates there, though I appreciate most of you are a distance from Leeds.
Mickey Jupp has written and played rock’n’roll and rhythm’n’blues around Southend and beyond since the 1960s. In the late 70s he was on the second Stiff records live tour, with Wreckless Eric, Jona Lewie, Rachel Sweet and Lene Lovich; and got to support Elvis Costello.
This is his original of the song that Dr Feelgood took into the charts in 1978. It was recorded for the B-side of a non-hit single (Nature’s Radio) and I’ve been unable to find it as an MP3 or even on CD, even for money. So I’ve worked out how to convert from vinyl especially.