heard on the wire

I’ve tried to persevere


The last post ended, as is so often the case, with the Fall. So where better to start the new one with a track from the new EP by A Sudden Burst of Colour. It will all make sense in a minute.

Being largely averse to classic rock, I’ve never seen the appeal of compilations of ”ultimate driving anthems” that would sooner have me driving off a cliff than imagining that the latest stretch of average speed restrictions on the M1 was in fact an open road reaching across the American West.

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Everybody ready? Let’s go 1, 2, 3!

Lithium 3

This song means something
Every song means something

According to a Latin adage, everything that comes in threes is perfect. Two’s company, three’s a crowd, according to anyone trying to get rid of unwanted company.

All of which is little help when we assess the part that the number three has played in the history of rock ’n’ pop. Unlike one and two, it plays no part in the soundcheck and while most music fans can name a favourite chart topper or runner-up, few recall a beloved hit parade bronze medalist.

And rare is the drummer who counts one, two, three before launching into the next song. Unless four is “Go!”. Ado has three letters and without further of it…

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You don’t have to be Prince if you want to dance

Peel Warhol

I talked in my last post about BBC Radio 2’s poll to find the most popular number two records ever. Although their selection was restricted to the popular chart and thus based on the crudest of metrics, it wasn’t without merit. The rundown of 40 tracks chosen from a shortlist of 100 would make a listenable compilation, albeit with finger poised over the skip button.

But what of the best number two records of all time, the ones chosen by the discerning listener? I am, of course, referring to the legendary (ie. relatively obscure) festive fifty, the chart that John Peel compiled every year from 1982 to 2003, the chart based on listeners’ selections of the best three records of the year.

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The birds fly a lot better than we do


Since it began broadcasting in 2006, the estimable Dandelion Radio has been the home of the “official” Festive Fifty, the annual listeners’ chart that John Peel started in 1976.

That first chart was compiled from listeners’ favourite records of all time and, with Led Zeppelin at number one, stands as a pre-punk anomaly. Henceforth the top spot would be shared by the Sex Pistols and Joy Division until 1982, when Peel retired the all-time list and introduced an annual chart. The ’82, ’83 and ’84 versions are perhaps the finest end-of-year countdowns ever compiled, reflecting a time when Peel truly was shaping the musical landscape. Later, 90s charts tended more to the dull and predictable, to the extent that Peel threatened to abandon the rundown altogether, not least because he was still totting up the votes by hand. But it survived, the last Peel 50 being chosen and broadcast in the wake of his untimely death in 2004.

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Try shaking a box in front of the Queen


Japanese punk pop doesn’t come any better than the pandemonium unleashed by Toquiwa, a female foursome that had already released a series of albums in Japan when indie “legend” David Gedge saw them in Tokyo.

And so the man behind and indeed in front of the Wedding Present and Cinerama did, giving them a support slot on the Wedding Present’s last tour and signing them to his Scopitones label, whereupon they released their self-titled UK debut.

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Remember the lesson of Take That

In my previous musical musing, I dismissed a swathe of musical royalty whose undoubted accomplishments sit uncomfortably in my ears. Now I’m turning my attention to artists cherished by many but which I generally scorn or at best tolerate: Abba, ELO, the Scissor Sisters and Take That.

My response to hearing these four ranges from irritation to outright hostility, but as is usually the case in our dialectical world, things are never that simple. Each, in their own small way, has something to offer even the most belligerent.

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If this ain’t love, why does it feel so good?

This was to have been the first post in a new series, the cover art, but I was overtaken by events and popular acclaim (here I maybe exaggerating). So, by way of compensation, here are five covers by one of the masters of re-interpretation, David Gedge.

In both his Wedding Present and Cinerama guises, Gedge has been a prolific remaker of others’ tunes, starting back in 1986 with a cover of Orange Juice’s Felicity. And when, in 1992, the Wedding Present released a single in each month of the year, all 12 b-sides were covers of some accomplishment, now collected with their Gedge-penned a-sides on the Hit Parade LP (available from all good record stores, etc.).

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This story is old

After two near-misses, it’s about time The Smiths were featured in a song-from-each-year-of-my-life. 1987’s Strangeways Here We Come was the band’s swansong, their most ambitious record to date.

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Day 27 — a song I wish I could play

I was a late comer to The Wedding Present, despite the fact that together with The Smiths they were the indie darlings of the mid-to-late 80s.

I can’t account for the oversight. Perhaps it was David Gedge’s rough-edged voice, or maybe it was the appearance of the eponymous George Best in Manchester Utd garb on the cover of the first LP.

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