heard on the wire

Play some punk rock songs as Santa passes by

Bauble tree

Marrs’ 1987 number one smash hasn’t exactly sprung to mind when I’ve thought of Christmas records, but it will now, thanks to the enduring pop genius of perennial smithsock favourite Helen Love.

Helen is no stranger to seasonal songs, having graced the festive airwaves on several occasions, and this year is no exception. Marrs, on the other hand, was a one-off collaboration that produced its seminal chart topper in the distinctly non-festive month of October.

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B is for…


…two of the bands closest to my heart, Ballboy and Belle and Sebastian, the products of a Scottish music scene who avoided the deadening impact of 1990s “Britpop” to produce some of the most perfect music of the past 20 years.

Ballboy and the brilliant songwriting of Gordon McIntyre hail from Edinburgh, while Stuart Murdoch’s Bell and Sebastian formed in Scotland’s other great city, Glasgow. Meanwhile Snow Patrol were beginning to do their thing in Dundee en route to stadium concerts and international commercial success—as I’ve said before, there really is no justice.

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And the cellos kick in and the lights start to flash

The Rosie Taylor Project were born in the small living room of a redbrick Victorian house in Leeds. There is no word of Rosie, but Jonny, Sophie, Nick, Jon, Sam and Shakey have a couple of LPs to their names, including this year’s Twin Beds.

The preceding single will be familiar to regular readers, but the record’s universal excellence justifies further mention for either of its standout tracks.

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Let’s run away and join the circus


This photo was inspired by my good cyber friend, Bitrot, aka @pigonwheels, with a nod to Andreas Gursky. It reminds me of summer evenings in Switzerland, staring at the blue sky, watching the birds and waiting for the spectacular storms to circle in from the north and west, but could have been taken almost anywhere.

I’m glad that I didn’t title the picture; somehow IMG_0009 seems apt. It’s a name that hangs on doubtless tens of thousands of digital pics, as anonymous and ubiquitous as the image itself.

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I’m a cool rocking daddy in the USA

The Facebook response to my 2003 song-from-each-year-of-my-life was a pleasant surprise. So much so that I decided to change the first song in my new blog series — The Cover Art — a look at the craft of the cover version.

It must be to Bruce Springsteen’s eternal chagrin that is lament for a victim of patriotic war was taken up as an anthem by the supporters of Ronald Reagan’s successful bid for re-election in 1984.

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You’re a big, fat, bigoted arsehole

I discovered Ballboy when I bought All the Records on the Radio are Shite because I liked the title. It wasn’t long before I scoured record shops for as much of their music as I could find.

The result: Ballboy lie second in my list of all-time favourite scottish bands of all-time, just behind Belle and Sebastian and marginally ahead of fellow country-tinged songsmiths, Camera Obscura.

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Day 17 — a song I hear often on the radio

I’m going to twist the rules slightly and pick a song that I’ve only ever heard twice on the radio — in the same show.

The song was my introduction to Ballboy, a band I now love, when I bought it sometime in 2002 solely because of the title.

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heard on the wire is a blog about music old and new, but mostly new. It occasionally uses 21st century file formats that may not be supported by 20th century web browsers. For best results use Safari or Chrome. And If you like the music posted here, please think of the effort and expense that has gone into making it and consider buying a copy of your own.


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