Happiness Stan

Happiness Stan

Jul 062021
 

I read the news the other day, oh boy, and found out it was 50 years ago that Jim Morrison checked out, either of a heart attack in a nice warm bath at home or overdosed on the throne at some local bar, depending on who you ask. Did anyone ever make a quicker descent from rock God to fat Elvis to dead Elvis? Man, he went for it.

In our household, my parents regularly discussed the news, but the death of a drugged-up hippy primarily known for getting arrested after waving his privates around on stage would have been low on their list of things to discuss with their 8-year-old son. That’s if they knew who he was, which seems as unlikely as me taking note of news about a rapper or singer in a boy band.

Without access to their music, other than “Light My Fire” on the Stardust soundtrack album, I read about them in books and magazines and was keen to find out more. About 4 years later, I was more than ready to pull out and demand to hear their albums when visiting friends whose parents were more liberal than my own. Which was almost everyone.

Before the world got poorly, I went to Paris with Mrs H, where I insisted on visiting Pere Lachaise cemetery. We arrived about an hour before closing time. She was tired and decided to help the sunset along with her knitting while I bounced around in search of what’s left of famous dead people, clutching the little map they handed me on the way in.

I said goodnight to Georges Melies and Edith Piaf, then found Simone Signoret and Yves Montand, who had the good sense to make things easier for death tourists by getting buried together. A brisk dash up the hill and I was soon channeling my inner Morrissey while having out with Oscar Wilde. The custodians grew so weary of cleaning his monument they stuck a huge glass box over it about twenty years ago. Nowadays, visitors chuck roses and whatnot over the walls before heading east to where the hardcore dudes hang out. For there rests Jim Morrison, under a mountain of tributes that photos suggest looks like a week’s worth of trash dumped on the unassuming marker beneath.

If you’ve seen The Prisoner, you might remember the buggies going out to retrieve Patrick McGoohan during his periodic escape attempts. About 20 minutes before closing time, the cemetery fills with similar vehicles, driving around exhorting anyone not 6 feet underground to make their way to the exit, barking at laggards through cracked loud hailers like some deranged Gallic Mark E Smith tribute act.

After losing a lot of weight, I discovered I can now run, better than I could as a teenager, or ever wanted to. I considered dodging the dune buggies and dashing over to see brother Jim, but quickly decided I couldn’t be bothered.

And that was when I realised The Doors, whose music meant so much to me as an angry/miserable, and usually both, teenager meant no longer held that magic for me. In addition, I wonder whether they ever did, or if I was merely dazzled by the legend.

There are about half a dozen songs I like well enough if I hear them on the radio. Two or three are so good that straight after hearing them I want to listen to them again. Mostly, they feel like something I used to do a long time ago and now can’t remember why. I’ve heard rereading Catcher in the Rye as an adult has the same effect on many.

If I heard “The End” coming from one of our children’s rooms, I’d probably walk on down the hall and ask them nicely to shut the door. Father, I want to… That’s very nice son, would you mind doing it more quietly?

So, am I maligning the Lizard King, or was he really wandering around most of the time stark naked, as opposed to simply waving his bits around at those who may or may not have wanted to see them?

And who in your musical life either appeared, or was heralded, as the second coming but turned out just to be a naughty boy?

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Jun 082021
 

Idle prestidigitation for the recent wailing installment of RTH brought to mind a most curious phenomenon, one which left me  bamboozled for the last few years until I solved it a few weeks ago, came to mind.

I’d enter the kitchen without a thought of glam rock in my head and yet, by the time I’d tidied up, I’d be humming a specific T Rex song to myself and wondering where it came from. Again.

Finally, I realised it was the dishwasher. 

One press of the button and the motor comes on for a long, grinding beat, then silence  2,3,4, another blast on the motor, another imaginary count of 2,3,4 and off it goes again. Then it whirrs into action, just like the guitar on the introduction to 20th Century Boy.

In the days when my work office was open, a run of any more than a dozen page on the photocopier set up to replicate the rhythm of Money by Pink Floyd set me off down that rabbit hole

Surely, in such august company, I cannot be the only one to have experienced this? 

Which items of household or office machinery do you have which set off rhythmical earworms? And are they songs which, broadly speaking, you enjoy?

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May 112021
 

Last night, after the rest of the family went to bed, my strangest thought for a long time popped by to say hello. 

I tried sending it away, but it would not go. It just sat there, like Winnie the Pooh stuck in his tree, or the cravings described by Mrs H and female friends and relations when heavy with child. I knew I’d be unable to sleep until my craving was addressed and sated.

It’s been a long old week. That’s my excuse, anyway.

We’ve had local and other elections over here. My day job means I get noticed by those whose role it is to staff them. Because I’m an obliging bloke, and never have spare money, I always agree to help.

So, roughly once a year, but less during a pandemic, I get up at an hour night owls consider bedtime, leave the house (which now, of course, I’m unused to), set up my polling station, work fifteen hours with no breaks – we’re not allowed to go outside other than checking the signage hasn’t blown away – meeting, greeting, and being pleasant to the same public I didn’t want to be nice to again when escaping live retail more than 20 years ago. 

After dark, we close the doors and pack the station down again. I get the added thrill of driving the paperwork across town and sitting in a queue of over a hundred cars doing the same all at once, knowing there is just one desk to process everything at the drop-off. So that takes another 2 hours. Getting home, I try not to notice the hour I got up at yesterday morning approaching the brow of the hill.

This year, I helped at the count as well, driving halfway across the county and back on both Friday and Saturday. I know they’re not like your counties, which are about the size of our continents, but our roads don’t work like yours, with holes like canyons on large and small thoroughfares alike.

To celebrate covid, they gave us clear screens between the counting staff and the candidates, lending the arena a zoo-like atmosphere. I half-expected candidates to start pushing bananas through the gaps between them. It might have improved our performance if they had, or got past their self-absorption.

It takes a certain type of individual to think this bunch of sleep-deprived administrators, all eager to finish and go home, were hand selected by evil genii for their sinister determination to falsify and subvert the vote in ways only the likes of your former leader can imagine in less lucid moments. But exist they do and these individuals are called candidates. Since the elections were postponed last year, two years on this was their moment to shine, and boy did they make the most of it, looking important in their big rosettes and suits even I could tell didn’t come from places I shop

So, Stan, I hear you say, this is all very well, but what’s it got to do with music, let alone the ROCK we come here to talk about? We want to put aside our cares of work and not think about people whose fragile egos demand the validation of an English parish council electorate, representing fewer people than those who turned out to see our bands playing gigs after school.

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Mar 082021
 

Ok, I may be in a minority here, never having heard, or heard of, the late, great John Russell before today. I just read his obituary in The Guardian, and thought he sounded like a bit of a character.

Like, who couldn’t love a guy who built his own record deck out of wood and an old radio so he could listen to The Rock Machine Turns You On and We’re Only in it for the Money?

The comments on the article also piqued my interest.

I don’t know what it’s like over there, but here, apart from axe murderers and TV personalities who disappeared after being caught doing something dreadful, everyone speaks well of the deceased and raises either a real or rhetorical glass to speed them on their way. I’ve even done it myself, on occasion. It helps pass the time during lockdown.

I was interested, therefore, to find them ranging from “what the…” to “what the actual…” and “interesting, but not for me”

Then I spotted the link to the video.

I watched the first two and a half minutes, which, at the length of a Freddie and the Dreamers or Buzzcocks single always feels like the right length of time to formulate an opinion. Nine minutes, in my opinion, is a little on the long side, but I’m probably out of practice.

So, ladies and gentlemen of the Hall, I would love to hear what you think of this, and possibly learn what I’m missing.

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Aug 242020
 

I come to seek wisdom from the psychotherapy department of the mighty Hall.

For 3 weeks I’ve been building up to reading this article: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2020/jul/30/acdc-their-40-greatest-songs-ranked?

It’s been hanging around the news feed on my phone since the end of last month, taunting me with its tender ministrations, unwilling to let me go without taking a bite from the fruit it has dangled before my eyes. No! I cried. Enough!

Last night, I finally succumbed, feeling like someone committed to a life of sobriety caught holding a box of chocolate liqueurs.

It wasn’t a painful read, in fact it barely impacted on my life in any way, other than causing me to chuckle quietly a couple of times. Which, to my horror, I realise now has made it even worse.

Having thought about it far harder than is probably good for me, I am hypothesising that the coward inside me was defending me against the possibility the article might lead me to listen to a whole album by AC/DC, and from there onto a Townsman Al-style exploration of metal – akin to his journey through Ayers/Cale/Nico/Eno territory.

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Jul 312020
 

I’ve been musing over Kate Bush all day, and not for the same reasons I used to. I was kind of on board with her for the first three albums, her stock was high if only for the memory of my grandma screaming and falling off her chair when she saw her on Top of the Pops doing “Wuthering Heights.” Priceless. A mate always bought the albums as soon as they were released and taped them for me, I found them recently and realised I had only listened to them up to Hounds of Love. I’ve no idea what stopped me at the time, we agreed about almost everything musically, it was as if I was in some way scared of hearing them, which makes as little sense now as it did then.

I’d be interested to hear whether any others gathered here have music which you actually own but have avoided listening to for reasons you’re unable to put a finger on, or is it just me?

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May 292012
 

At 11.30 pm in the UK the Eurovision Song Contest has just finished, and the favourite, Sweden, romped home with a rather lumpen and tuneless disco dirge that somehow captivated the hearts of the 42 competing nations. At least we didn’t have to stay up until 3.30 am, which is what it is in the host country of Azerbaijan, where the annual festival of cheese didn’t start until midnight their time.

Engelbert Humperdinck kicked off proceedings for the UK with an inoffensive ballad which didn’t really do anything, and garnered just enough votes to put him second to last, fractionally ahead of Norway, whose song I can’t remember either.The Russian Grannies ended up over a hundred points behind but still in second place, and put in an exuberant performance having added the presence of a great big oven from which they produced a large tray of biscuits just ahead of the final chorus, which must have been glued down given the enthusiasm with which the eldest of their number was dancing around with them. The clip I posted before now has very nearly three and a half MILLION hits, this live version has almost half a million already. They were robbed.

Serbia came in third with a rather serious sounding ballad, which translated as something like “Love Is Not a Thing,” if memory serves, delivered in a stentorian baritone by a man in a suit.

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