heard on the wire

A girl called Joyce


Hey Joyce
Rock and Roll never gave you a voice
It’s never given you so much as a lament
So I went to the store
And I bought a guitar
To bestow this accolade on you
Just you
Not Sally, Carrie Anne or Peggy Sue
I’m going to spend my next half day with a girl called Joyce
Going to possibly stop at Tebay with a girl called Joyce

Rock and roll hadn’t given her a voice. It has now.

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Hard-boiled eggs on a beach with a Blue Flag status


Well, that was all a long time ago. I left this blog in a state of suspended animation as I abandoned a lifetime of aimless career-drifting to become a teacher.

I recall a tweet from last summer that contemptuously — and quite rightly — dismissed those celebrities describing their well-remunerated appearances on Strictly… or its ilk as a journey. The Tour de France, that’s a journey, the tweet said.

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Shoot ’em in the back now

Harry Styles Ramones t-shirt

I harbour too many irrational prejudices. Really, why do vegetarians, tattoos, comfortable shoes, unpolished shoes, men in hoodies, comic books (as opposed to comics), ill-fitting jeans and DSLRs in the hands of amateurs annoy me so much?

The presence of any of them neither inconveniences me nor otherwise diminishes the quality of my life, but still…

I’m learning to control my pique and hide my distaste, but it’s not easy. And it’s most difficult when I see a Ramones t-shirt.

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Why d’you feel the need to rant and rave?

Polish postage stamps

Dear John Peel,

Nothing pleases me more, really, than to get a letter from a real fan and here’s—it would be embarrassing to him to give his full name—but Anthony of Finchley.

And he says, “For me, your programme achieves the dubious accolade of being just about the worst music programme I’ve ever heard. What a horrible, brain-jarring, nerve-rending load of pish. Is this the cream of the crop? Is this the best there is? Have you ever heard of the term ‘beauty’ or how about ‘joyfull’ or try ‘uplifting’? An awful, awful programme.”

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I don’t know my elbow from my arse


It’s been almost 30 years since I last went into an English school classroom. From September I’ll be training to do it everyday, which means this blog may move from irregular to hiatus.

So while I still have both the time and the energy, what better subject could there be for a post than school itself, a recurring topic in the rock ’n’ pop canon, whether it’s Pink Floyd proving, however ironically, that a little education goes a long way or Alice Cooper tediously banging on about blowing school to pieces?

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The alcohol loves you while turning you blue


Ten months ago I wrote, “And then there was one. Which, as you all know, is the most important number in the history of rock ’n’ pop music.” And now there is two, which as anyone who’s ever been to a sound check will know is the second most important.

For the commercially minded, number two may conjure up memories of those records that famously and narrowly failed to reach the top of the charts. Most famously of course was Vienna, the Ultravox single recently voted as the best number two of all-time.

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No more ground boutique at match in Chelsea


It happens occasionally, that a song is so good I simply have to play it twice. Often, as was the recent case with Cinerama’s King’s Cross, because the song perfectly fits the day’s theme, and sometimes because the random shuffling of an iPod gives me no choice.

The Fall have released at least four versions of the tune many know better as the music that accompanies (or accompanied—it’s been a while) Saturday’s football results on the BBC. The first version appeared on the band’s twenty-fourth studio LP, The Real New Fall LP Formerly ‘Country On The Click”, released in 2003. The band later reprised it for a John Peel session, before releasing a third recording that was one of my two 2004 choices for “a song from each year of my life”. A fourth turned up Interim, on a compilation of previously unreleased Fall material.

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Home taping is killing music

JVC walkman

I was convinced that it was a flash in the pan, but five years since cassette tapes first began to reappear, their popularity, like that of vinyl, continues to grow.

Ten years ago, the only places where cassettes could be found were in the rotating racks of Hallmark releases in petrol stations, in glove boxes and in attics. They were the epitome of dead technology, only to spring to life again, a wholly surprising phenomenon of nostalgia, hipster cool, anti-piracy and DIY.

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You can’t justify it, not a word

Wah Nah Poo

Pete Wylie encapsulates everything that bemuses me about popular music. Despite being one of the greatest singers of the last 30 years, yet he remains a marginal figure, famous, or at least reasonably well-known, for a single top 10 hit, yet worthy of much wider acclaim.

In large part, of course, it’s his own fault. Despite an ego the size of his home town, Liverpool, he has restricted himself to just five studio LPs in a career that began in the late 1970s.

And that from a man who, it has been said, believes that if there were only seven minutes left to live, you should spend three of them recording a song.

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Sting singing on the roof of the Barbican


I’ve been messing about with tumblr for years without knowing exactly what I wanted to do with it. Then, in a moment of inspiration that would have surprised Saul himself, I realised that I could combine tumblr’s immediacy with the longer form of this blog to create the ultimate two-stop shop for discerning music fans.

So, after much jiggery, a little pokery and suprisingly little cursing, a customised smithsocktumblr has become the place where I dump those SoundCloud and Bandcamp soundbites that I encounter on my virtual travels. There’s no commentary, no context, just music.

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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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All the music on this site is posted to encourage listeners to enjoy it and then rush out and buy as many songs by the artist as they possibly can. Any artist, record label boss, publisher or other rightsholder who doesn't want their works featured here only needs to get in touch and the offending file(s) will be removed at the earliest opportunity.