Happiness Stan

Happiness Stan

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.

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.

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?

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.

May 232012

Further to the thread the other day about losing, borrowing, stealing, and doing all sorts of other things to favourite records, I found myself humming this as I was stuck at the traffic lights on way to work the other day, as I’ve been wont to do for the last 23 years, and musing that I’ve never been able to buy it as I’ve never even seen a copy. I even collared their drummer at a gig once and asked if he knew where I might be able to find a copy and he had no idea either.Apart from John Peel playing their records at every opportunity, Bob made about as little impression on the pop world as it was possible to get away with but still keep going for a few years, and they were my favourite band. I went to see them whenever they played anywhere within about a 30-mile radius (I’m talking about British roads here), we booked them to play at our local community centre, and I own all of their records except this one. And they are almost all as good as this one, which made number 31 in John Peel’s Festive Fifty (as nominated and voted for by his listeners)—which was about the closest they ever got to recognition.

One of my greatest fanboy experiences was bumping into them at the bar at the Town and Country Club (as it was called then) at a Julian Cope gig and missing the first 2 songs of the second half of the show through being engrossed in conversation with them. I practically had to go and lie down when Dean, their drummer, recognised me and stopped for a chat in the Cabaret tent at Glastonbury a couple of years later.

So, in an attempt to feel less alone, I have two questions for the Hall:

  1. Is there a record you would like to own that you have just never managed to find? (I’m talking about one that you’d actually play and listen to, not just for being ridiculously valuable.)
  2. Have you ever followed a band whose talent it feels/felt that no-one but you and about 3 other people have been able to recognise? (Getting above number 30 in any chart of any description counts as success, particularly if it involves record sales).
May 022012

Tiny Tim

Like a slightly younger approximation of Hubert, son of Rawlin, Herbert Khaury was in his 30s and still unusual when he finally got noticed. The Bonzos supported Mr Khaury in 1968 at the Royal Albert Hall, and I have occasionally wondered since whether Viv Stanshall based Hubert either consciously or subconsciously on Herbert, or at least his alter-ego, Tiny Tim.

He certainly was unusual.

I first chanced upon him as the musical interlude on a popular game-show on British TV in about 1968, as he wandered through a mock up of an English Country Garden plinking his ukulele and singing “Tiptoe Thru The Tulips” in glorious black and white while my grandparents tapped their toes in time to my mother railing and seething against this assault on her sensitivities.

Rolling forward about a decade, I started going on the train to the first of the Brighton record fairs as soon as the Saturday job money started picking up, and I can remember quite clearly the one when I came home proudly bearing copies of An Evening with Wild Man Fischer, half-a-dozen Monkees albums, some really weird looking singles, a demo of ? and the Mysterians’ “96 Tears,” and a copy of God Bless Tiny Tim.

“The Other Side” is, though admittedly by a fairly short stretch, the oddest song on the album. I wasn’t expecting to find it on Youtube, and was completely unprepared for this live rendition.That evening I took God Bless Tiny Tim around to my mate’s house, the mate in whose house I would be living in just a few months later, and we listened to it three or four times, we would enjoy it many more times in the years to come, and he was as excited as I was when a year or so later I chanced upon a copy of Tiny Tim’s Second Album, which is as enjoyable in its own way as its predecessor.

As punk was turning into new wave, and as new wave turned into new romanticism and it all mushed back into nasty early ’80s pop, the first two Tiny Tim albums provided regular welcome respite.

Continue reading »

Apr 212012

This has been a rather grim week or two for the passing of rock legends, and today Bert Weedon, inspiration for many a guitarist primarily through his Play in a Day book, said goodnight as well.I know practically nothing about his life, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard any of his records, but in common with Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Eric Clapton, and Brian May, I owned a copy of his book and at one time tried to learn to play using it.

My knowledge of music was so rudimentary (read non-existent) that the book was far too complicated for me, and I never returned to it. I eventually figured it out in my own way, but the act of buying the book and opening it with an untuned and probably untunable guitar in hand was enough of a statement of intent to lead me to find a doorway to the instrument even if it turned out not to be that one.

I eventually figured it out by making a set of flash cards with chords on one side and the name of the chord on the other and to keep shuffling them and pulling them out at random until I could not only play them but remember them all as well. I did do it in a day—New Year’s Eve 1978, when I couldn’t find anyone to stay up with, but which turned out in hindsight to be the most productive evening I’ve ever spent.

I wondered if anyone in the Hall ever did learn to play using Bert’s book? And please share any Eureka moments with instruments that you subsequently became at least passingly competent with.


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