Regular readers will already know that K and I have enjoyed mixed success with trendy London hotels. For every agreeably expectation-satisfying experience at One Aldwych, Threadneedles or the Malmaison, there has been a corresponding St. Martin’s, Hempel or myhotel Bloomsbury (sic) to leave us with a nasty taste in the mouth and a mockingly extortionate figure on the credit card bill. It’s not even as if we’re hard to fool please. Flirt with us at reception, stick some Jasmine & Geranium Body Wash in the bathroom and a couple of squares of Green & Blacks on the pillow, and we’re yours for life.

This time round, a recommendation in the Guardian Travel section alerted me to a decent-sounding introductory deal at the newly refurbished Cumberland Hotel at Marble Arch: a vast place, which has shed its former faded shabbiness in favour of a slick, minimal (mais bien sur!) £95 million re-fit.

I wasn’t convinced. In the small print at the bottom of the bill, I discovered that the Cumberland, for all its Ian Schrager-esque pretensions to super-sleek bleeding-hedginess, is actually owned by the Thistle Hotel group: that byline for bland corporate mediocrity. (Meta aside: note how I cannot even get across the concept of bland corporate mediocrity without resorting to boring stock phrases such as “bland corporate mediocrity”.) And that was the key to understanding this joint. For all its clear gleaming surfaces, cavernous open spaces, wittily surreal flourishes, and the inevitable Big Lobby Art, there was no mistaking that tell-tale underlying whiff of the corporate.

The decidedly mezzo-brow, derivative nature of said Big Lobby Art provided the biggest clue. That painter who rips off Bridget Riley’s multi-coloured vertical stripes, only with nice polite “tonal shades”, all airbushed and fuzzed over in an attempt to look tasteful: she was there. That sculptor who does those boringly life-like human figures, such as the walking shopper and the man resting sideways on his elbow, which I’ve seen round the corner from the Thistle Hotel in Newcastle: he was there. Safe choices, selected by committee. The Athena Gallery does Charles Saatchi. Meh.

I can only conclude that the Ian Schrager hi-gloss boutique “look” has become so entrenched in the popular flicking-through-Wallpaper*-in-the-airport consciousness, that even the dreary old business chains are starting to pick up on it. How long before Travelodges are rebranded tLodge+ or something equally “conceptual”, with ambient electronica wafting through the lobby and a goldfish on a plasma screen wriggling above the check-in counter? Betcha someone in head office is “scoping it out” right now, even as we talk.

My room was the expected symphony of blonde wood, oversized Egyptian cotton pillows and limited space, with the self-consciously “quirky” bonus of a large etched glass panel behind the bed, depicting a mythological scene. (Something to do with a man and a horse, I think. It didn’t hold my attention for long.) An outstretched china hand rested enigmatically on the desk. A large plasma screen on the wall offered excellent TV reception, as well as high-speed Internet access using the wireless keyboard provided … at a urine-extracting £5.99 per hour, if you please. I mean, I’m hardly Mister Best Value Consumer Rights at the best of times, but really. The bathroom was freezing, with no discernible means of heating. (In the morning, the shower took over five minutes to reach almost-lukewarm.) But worst of all: there was no mini-bar. Granted, there was a fridge: but it contained nothing but two plastic bottles of mineral water.

I checked the directory of services. Nope: no reference to a mini-bar whatsoever. And hold up, what’s this in the introductory guff?

Upon entering your room, an outstretched hand tempts you with a pair of firm, ripe apples.

(I paraphrase, but you get the gist.)

SO WHERE WERE MY F**KING APPLES THEN? Was this because I’d booked at the “introductory” rate, and they thought they’d save a few bob on sundries?

Well, mustn’t grumble. I unpacked and ate my smuggled-in Pret A Manger sandwich, glamorously sprawled out in front of Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway in my underpants, got dressed, and mooched down to the bar for that authentic Lost In Translation experience. Marooned on a bar-stool with a Budvar and Word magazine, trying to look like I belonged. The mysterious loner, eschewing company, and feeling really comfortable with it too, no, really

Arriving back in the not-even-that-early-anymore hours, I paused for a couple of minutes in the now almost deserted lobby. My reverie was soon broken by the sight of an exceptionally beautiful woman gliding noiselessly past me, on the way from the lifts to the main entrance. Full, glossy shoulder-length hair. Head bowed, eyes firmly trained to the floor. Thick, expensive coat clasped protectively, almost defensively, around her slender form. For a second or two, I thought it was Naomi Campbell, in full incognito mode. My only wish is to be invisible; this charisma is my curse.

Until she reached the door, and I spotted the dark, seamed stockings and the mile-high f**k-off stilettos. At 6:45 in the morning.

Of course.

My little BdJ moment-ette. A passing whiff of the transgressive, dispatching me to my slumbers with feverish re-examinations and deconstructions of every last nuance.

Was this the capable professional, adroitly negotiating her customary dignified, low-key exit? Or the broken, ruined fall-girl, skulking away from the scene of her shame and disgrace, her bedraggled, tawdry finery mocked by the dawn’s early light? Ah, the strange twilight world of the heterosexual! We shall never know.

Telly – intit brilliant?

Telly! We all love a bit of telly, don’t we! Couldn’t live without it!

What’s more, and despite all those ghastly low-rent efforts on New Tabloid-tastic Channel 4, (The Man Who Shagged A Chicken, 100 Wobbliest Dangliest Bits, How Clean Is Your Arse?) we seem to be experiencing something of a miniature Golden Age at present.

So, in keeping with Lazy Ass Blogger Theme Week, here is a quick list of Great Programmes Off The Telly that screened in January 2005.

(Some – indeed most – of them have already finished. I can only apologise for not having alerted you to their presence in time.)

Desperate Housewives.

From Sex In The City to Sex In The Suburbs, this successfully presses all of my Big Gay Buttons. The stars of this show will probably be insufferably annoying in three years’ time, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Dragons Den.

(Or is it Dragon’s Den? Or Dragons’ Den? CBATG.) It’s Entrepreneur Idol! What could have been a tediously repetitive and pointlessly demeaning one-trick Theatre Of Cruelty has actually developed over the weeks into something a good deal more subtle and absorbing, as all manner of complex and unpredictable dynamics and power-shifts get played out between the hopefuls and the venture capitalists.


Johnny Vegas plays a lazy-assed dope dealer to uncomfortably accurate perfection in this downbeat BBC3 sitcom. OK, so I’ve only seen it once. But it showed Great Promise. (Vegas also stars in another more-than-servicable sitcom on ITV about a local newspaper, but it’s on at a silly time and I keep forgetting about it. Maybe it’s finished? CBATG.)

The Lost World Of Mitchell & Kenyon.

Unearthed and restored film footage of everyday life in Edwardian England, circa 1901-1910, which had been sitting – long forgotten but almost perfectly preserved – in a sealed container at the back of a shop for the best part of a century. Astonishingly vivid.


Razor-sharp drama series about a bunch of ultra-cynical criminal lawyers (plus one naive-yet-principled ingenue), starring a wonderfully jaundiced Phil Daniels. Again, this is on at a really silly time: 10pm on a Sunday, for 30 minutes. Lands so many punches on the British justice system in such a short space of time that it’s almost too much to take in.

The Rotters’ Club.

Pleasingly accurate adaptation (in characterisation, plot and period detail) of Jonathan Coe’s equally accurate depiction of 1970s adolescence. (A pity about last year’s somewhat half-hearted homework assignment of a follow-up novel, but you can’t have everything.) My only quibble is that the timelines get a little blurred – punk happens too early, round-ended shirt collars happen too late – but there is more than enough to mitigate against such pedantry.


Simply the finest contemporary TV drama series since… well, Clocking Off, probably, and that was conceived by Paul Abbott as well. It amazes me that the series can support such a wide cast of strong, engaging, original and consistent characters, week after week, without the quality ever dipping.


Bruce “fantasy boyfriend” Parry (K and I are ad idem on this, by the way) spends a month at a time living with remote tribes: properly living with them, learning their ways and immersing himself in their customs to an occasionally alarming degree. An object lesson in empathetic skills and mutual respect.

But not, alas…
Look Around You.

I started off enchanted by the accuracy of the pastiche – but quickly ended up bored and fidgety, due to the slowness of the pace and the utter lack of, you know, jokes.

What have I missed? Anything, or are you all out Having Lives every evening? Do tell.


We lazy-ass bloggers need a new acronym. Take yesterday’s post, for example.

A little bit like that scene towards the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey, where HAL the super-computer regresses to infancy and starts playing Tic-Tac-Toe. (Or was that War Games? Sci-fi isn’t exactly my home turf.)

I’ve used it once before, and I’m going to start using it again:


Pronounced see-bat-gee. Pass it on.

Update: To push the concept, I’ve added a bit of soft-soap hard-sell copy-writing blurb to the explanation page.

Continue reading “WNANA.”

Tranniefesto: Conversations of an Email Variety.

Following our recent friendly exchange of jumbo-sized e-mails, Siobhan of Tranniefesto has put together a dialogue-style posting, in which she offers point-by-point replies to my nervous experimental musings on various aspects of cross-dressing culture (a subject which I have only just started thinking about in any degree of detail).

Unless I’m very much mistaken, Siobhan has coded her blog from scratch, using a content management system of her own devising. This gives the site some interesting individual features, including the seamless incorporation of comments into the main body of the post. Siobhan’s replies to these comments are then displayed as if they were a continuation of the original post, thus making each entry much more of an open-ended dialogue. Having been following Tranniefesto for the last week or so, I have become increasingly taken with this way of doing things; it suits Siobhan’s relaxed, conversational blogging style very well.

At the end of this particular piece, a lengthy, considered and thought-provoking comment has appeared from someone called Kelly, which adds a lot of value to the original dialogue. I’m beginning to sense that there is quite a lot of debate taking place on some of these issues within the TV community (on the whole subject of what is referred to as “passing”, for instance), and I am finding it fascinating to be witnessing some of this debate for myself.

Singles of the year: #1

But first: the albums countdown (as it stood at the end of 2004; if I were doing it now, a few positions would be adjusted).

40 – bjork – medulla
39 – lhasa – the living road
38 – gwen stefani – love angel music baby
37 – ilya – they died for beauty
36 – boredoms – seadrum/house of sun
35 – kerrier district – kerrier district
34 – the earlies – these were the earlies
33 – the streets – a grand don’t come for free
32 – prince – musicology
31 – warsaw village band – uprooting
30 – nellie mckay – get away from me
29 – nancy sinatra – nancy sinatra
28 – the fiery furnaces – blueberry boat
27 – the go! team – thunder lightening strike
26 – annie – anniemal
25 – kings of convenience – riot on an empty street
24 – jane birkin – rendez-vous
23 – lambchop – aw c’mon/no you c’mon
22 – mbilia bel – belissimo
21 – junior boys – last exit
20 – hot chip – coming on strong
19 – animal collective – sung tongs
18 – franz ferdinand – franz ferdinand
17 – morrissey – you are the quarry
16 – omara portuondo – flor de amor
15 – kanye west – the college dropout
14 – nick cave & the bad seeds – abattoir blues/the lyre of orpheus
13 – stereolab – margerine eclipse
12 – cesaria evora – voz d’amor
11 – sons and daughters – love the cup
10 – tinariwen – amassakoul
9 – dani siciliano – likes
8 – chungking – the hungry years
7 – mylo – destroy rock ‘n’ roll
6 – air – talkie walkie
5 – phoenix – alphabetical
4 – youssou n’dour – egypt
3 – brian wilson – smile
2 – scissor sisters – scissor sisters
1 – hidden cameras – mississauga goddam

But second: the compilation albums countdown.

10 – original soundtrack – lost in translation
9 – tom middleton – the trip
8 – various – eurovision song contest istanbul 2004
7 – various – biba – champagne & novocaine
6 – norman & joey jay – good times vol. 4
5 – snow patrol – the trip
4 – various – froots #23 (covermount)
3 – bbc radio 3 – awards for world music 2004
2 – coldcut – life:styles
1 – sean rowley – guilty pleasures vol. 1

But third: the “best gigs” countdown.

15 – cesaria evora
14 – basement jaxx/audio bullys
13 – pet shop boys: battleship potemikin
12 – glenn tilbrook & the fluffers
11 – bent/chungking
10 – duran duran/goldfrapp
9 – violent femmes
8 – white stripes
7 – franz ferdinand/fiery furnaces
6 – scissor sisters/phoenix (nottingham rock city)
5 – hidden cameras
4 – fiery furnaces/sons and daughters/red organ serpent sound
3 – scissor sisters/syntax (leicester charlotte)
2 – the magic band/wreckless eric
1 – omara portuondo/javier rubal

But fourth: the full singles countdown, from 90 to 2.

Click on each song title for a write-up. Items listed in bold denote a write-up which is longer than the usual.

90 – bloc party – she’s hearing voices
89 – keane – everybody’s changing
88 – ignition – love is war
87 – franz ferdinand – michael
86 – air – surfing on a rocket
85 – franz ferdinand – matinee
84 – deep dish – flashdance
83 – the killers – somebody told me
82 – jamelia – see it in a boy’s eyes
81 – will young – your game
80 – the fiery furnaces – tropical ice-land
79 – phoenix – run run run
78 – eminem – mosh
77 – annie – chewing gum
76 – hidden cameras – i believe in the good of life
75 – kings of leon – the bucket
74 – green day – american idiot
73 – gwen stefani – what you waiting for?
72 – lcd soundsystem – yeah
71 – will young – friday’s child
70 – animal collective – who could win a rabbit?
69 – mu – paris hilton
68 – rachel stevens – some girls
67 – dogs die in hot cars – godhopping
66 – maroon 5 – this love
65 – morrissey – i have forgiven jesus
64 – scissor sisters – take your mama
63 – nick cave & the bad seeds – there she goes, my beautiful world
62 – rex the dog – prototype
61 – ruslana – wild dances
60 – the walkmen – the rat
59 – morrissey – let me kiss you
58= – the delays – long time coming
58= – sons & daughters – johnny cash
57 – pay tv – trendy discotheque
56 – mcfly – 5 colours in her hair
55 – ce’cile – hot like we
54 – wolfman ft peter doherty – for lovers
53 – the concretes – you can’t hurry love
52 – phoenix – everything is everything
51 – jamelia – thank you
50 – sex in dallas – everybody deserves to be f**ked
49 – girls aloud – the show
48 – morrissey – first of the gang to die
47 – usher ft ludacris & lil’ john – yeah
46 – alexandra & konstantin – my galileo
45 – ana da silva – the lighthouse
44 – ramón – para llenarma de ti
43 – the thrills – whatever happened to corey haim?
42 – annie – my heartbeat
41 – pet shop boys – flamboyant
40 – graham coxon – freakin’ out
39 – alicia keys – you don’t know my name (reggae remix)
38 – girls aloud – love machine
37 – gene serene & john downfall – i can do anything
36 – kylie minogue – i believe in you
35 – the fiery furnaces – single again
34 – alcazar – this is the world we live in
33 – mylo – drop the pressure
32 – britney spears – toxic
31 – air – cherry blossom girl
30 – mylo – destroy rock ‘n’ roll
29 – the prodigy – girls/rex the dog mix
28 – keane – somewhere only we know
27 – scissor sisters – mary
26 – chungking – making music
25 – o-zone – dragostea din tei
24 – ce’cile – rude bwoy thug life
23 – lena philipsson – it hurts
22 – jc chasez – all day long i dream about sex
21 – estelle – 1980
20 – nick cave & the bad seeds – nature boy
19 – 3 of a kind – babycakes
18 – junior boys – high come down
17 – chromeo – needy girl
16 – kelis – trick me
15 – the knife – heartbeats/rex the dog mix
14 – the streets – blinded by the lights
13 – belle & sebastian – your cover’s blown/wrapped up in books (ep)
12 – kelis ft andre 3000 – millionaire
11 – kanye west – through the wire
10 – eamon – f**k it (i don’t want you back)
9 – johnny boy – you are the generation that bought more shoes and you get what you deserve
8 – belle & sebastian – i’m a cuckoo/avalanches remix
7 – the streets – dry your eyes
6 – portobella – covered in punk
5 – morrissey – irish blood, english heart
4 – franz ferdinand – take me out
3 – kanye west ft twista & jamie foxx – slow jamz
2 – basement jaxx ft lisa kekaula – good luck

Back later, when I’ll be appending this post with the Number One single of 2004.

1. Lola’s Theme – Shapeshifters

1999: Westside – TQ
1994: Bits And Pieces – Artemisia
1989: She Bangs The Drums – The Stone Roses
1984: Relax – Frankie Goes To Hollywood

How unexpected that, in a year where it became less relevant to my life than ever before, my favourite two singles of the year should both have emerged from “dance” culture. But then there’s no arguing with this kind of sheer, unassailable magnificence.

What makes Lola’s Theme so special is simply this: that it can single-handedly turn a shit night out into a great night out. Instantly. For during the few minutes that it’s playing, even the bleakest, shoddiest dive on the planet can glimpse transcendence – and even the most wretched of lost souls can experience redemption. As for me, I’m not ashamed to say that I have openly wept to this record in the middle of a crowded dancefloor – and have felt all the better for having done so.

All of which means that, thanks to a cannily timed vote earlier in the day, WE HAVE A WINNER!

Step forward Chav Gav: citizen of Leith, frequently mentioned in dispatches at Naked Blog, and even a very occasional blogger in his own right. (I remember this lurid tale particularly vividly.) E-mail me with your address, and I’ll stick the CDs in the post.

However. I do feel that a consolation prize is due to one poor soul: a dogged tryer in this contest, who has dolefully admitted that he never wins anything, and who came so agonisingly close to tasting victory this week.

dave: The CDs are yours as well, mate.

(How could I ever refuse? You’ll feel like you win when you lose! Oy!)

I hope that at least some of you have enjoyed this ridiculously long and drawn-out spectacle over the last few weeks. It has probably cost me what little chance I had of winning a Bloggie, but f**k it: I still have my integrity, and isn’t that infinitely more important than these mere baubles?

(You know: for a moment there, I almost convinced myself.)

To the rest of you: thank you for bearing my indulgence with such good grace, and I hope that you managed to mine at least some small measure of value from all the trainspotterishness. I know this isn’t a music-blog, and I’ve not even been particularly aspiring/adhering to music journalist values during this series. What I’ve really been trying to do – especially in some of the longer pieces, as highlighted in bold in the list above – is talk about music as it relates to my own personal experience, rather than to the world at large. In this respect, maybe I haven’t really departed so far from “personal” blogging after all.

There will now be a brief refractory period, during which I shall endeavour not to talk about music at all for a couple of weeks or so – at least until the next overblown blog stunt comes along. (Long-standing readers will know of what I speak.) Wish me luck!

#1 Lola’s Theme – Shapeshifters (chav gav) · #4 Take Me Out – Franz Ferdinand (Blue Witch) ·#7 Dry Your Eyes – The Streets (dave again) · #15 Heartbeats – The Knife (Swish David) · #16Trick Me – Kelis (Ben) · #19 Babycakes – 3 Of A Kind (dave) · #29 Girls (rex the dog mix) – The Prodigy (Waitrose David) · #32 Toxic – Britney Spears (Angus) · #36 I Believe In You – Kylie Minogue (Joe) · #38 Love Machine – Girls Aloud (Alan) · #49 The Show – Girls Aloud (Paul) ·#64 Take Your Mama – Scissor Sisters (Chig) · #85 Matinee – Franz Ferdinand (timothy)Not listed:
Tits On The Radio – Scissor Sisters (Todd) · Filthy/Gorgeous – Scissor Sisters (asta) · Common People – William Shatner & Joe Jackson (Gary F.) · Real To Me – Brian McFadden (Alan again) ·Music Is My Boyfriend – Hidden Cameras (timothy again) · Double Drop – Fierce Girl (Chig again) · Galang – MIA (dave, for the third time)

Singles of the year: #2

2. Good Luck – Basement Jaxx featuring Lisa Kekaula

1999: It’s Not Right But It’s Okay – Whitney Houston
1994: Waterfall – Atlantic Ocean
1989: Pacific State – 808 State
1984: Rocket To Your Heart – Lisa
Tell me, tell me, is life just a playground? Think you’re the real deal honey, and someone’ll always look after you? But wake up baby, you’re so totally deluded, you’ll end up old and lonely, if you don’t get a bullet in your head…

So unarguably great that it was a hit twice over in 2004 – reaching #12 in January and #14 in July.

Tactical last-minute voters: this is your final chance to make an educated guess, before I reveal my favourite single of 2004 some time between now and midnight (UK time).

Until then, in the words of Basement Jaxx themselves … GOOD LUCK!


Singles of the year: #3

3. Slow Jamz – Kanye West featuring Twista & Jamie Foxx

1999: My Love Is Your Love – Whitney Houston
1994: Whatever – Oasis
1989: Back To Life – Soul II Soul featuring Caron Wheeler
1984: Two Tribes – Frankie Goes To Hollywood


“It is one of the most perceptive and sublime dissertations there has been on the relative role of the male and female psyches in our perception of music and what effect it has upon us, what functions it can serve or surpass. Moreover and beyond this, it is one of the finest meditations on how we view music of the past, what we allow it to mean to us when we are not exhausting ourselves pursuing the ghost of newness.”

– Marcello Carlin, The Clothed Maja, excerpt from THE COLLEGE DROPOUT – THE BEST HIP HOP ALBUM IN THE WORLD…EVER? (If you’re at all familiar with Kanye West, then scroll down to April 21 2004 and read the whole article, because it’s brilliant.)

Singles of the year: #4

4. Take Me Out – Franz Ferdinand

1999: Red Alert – Basement Jaxx
1994: 7 Seconds – Youssou N’Dour/Neneh Cherry
1989: One Man – Chanelle
1984: Why? – Bronski Beat
With two Franz Ferdinand singles already in my countdown (at numbers 87 and 85), this one – by far their biggest song, and so ubiquitous in 2004 that you scarcely need me to explain its appeal – was another doddle to predict.

And predict it you did! Well, kind of. For hereby hangs a tale.

Having been knocked off the top of the leader board some time in the middle of last week, dave requested a slight change to the rules, in order to give himself a second chance at winning make the game more interesting and enjoyable. Being an accommodating kind of guy, I instantly acceded to his request – allowing anyone who was knocked off the top another chance to make a guess.

But ONLY WHEN they were KNOCKED OFF the top.

And NOT WHEN they were STILL AT the top.

Unfortunately, this is the part which dave failed to grasp. And so, when Dry Your Eyes by The Streets put him at the top of the heap, what did he do but attempt to place a third – yes, a THIRD – guess, for Take Me Out, BEFORE being dislodged from pole position?

Having disallowed his guess, it was – of course – still visible in the comments box for all to see. Because I only delete comments in highly exceptional circumstances.

You can probably guess what happened next. Someone else saw the comment – thought “hmm, good guess” – and repeated it as their own.

So, should I have disqualified the guess, or should I have made dave accountable for his mistake and accepted it as valid?

Being a harsh yet fair task-master, I decided upon the latter course of action. Meaning that – of ALL PEOPLE! – the Steve Earle and Bruce Springsteen loving, all-modern-music-is-boring, I-thought-Franz-Ferdinand-was-a-dead-duke, look-dear-can-you-get-a-move-on-because-I’m-fed-up-with-all-this-pop-nonsense, defiantly and resplendently un-trendy Blue Witch now takes over the lead from dave.

This is all very amusing, I must say.

Three left!

Already listed:
#4 Take Me Out – Franz Ferdinand (Blue Witch) · #7 Dry Your Eyes – The Streets (dave again)· #15 Heartbeats – The Knife (Swish David) · #16 Trick Me – Kelis (Ben) · #19 Babycakes – 3 Of A Kind (dave) · #29 Girls (rex the dog mix) – The Prodigy (Waitrose David) · #32 Toxic – Britney Spears (Angus) · #36 I Believe In You – Kylie Minogue (Joe) · #38 Love Machine – Girls Aloud (Alan) · #49 The Show – Girls Aloud (Paul) · #64 Take Your Mama – Scissor Sisters (Chig)· #85 Matinee – Franz Ferdinand (timothy)

Not (yet?) listed:
Tits On The Radio – Scissor Sisters (Todd) · Filthy/Gorgeous – Scissor Sisters (asta) · Common People – William Shatner & Joe Jackson (Gary F.) · Real To Me – Brian McFadden (Alan again) ·Music Is My Boyfriend – Hidden Cameras (timothy again) · Double Drop – Fierce Girl (Chig again) · Lola’s Theme – Shapeshifters (chav gav) · Galang – MIA (dave, for the third time)

Singles of the year: #5

5. Irish Blood, English Heart – Morrissey

1999: No Scrubs – TLC
1994: End Of A Century – Blur
1989: Musical Freedom – Paul Simpson featuring Adeva
1984: Strike – The Enemy Within
It ends today, folks.

Our shared musical odyssey. Our crazy roller-coaster ride. Our castle in the sky.

My, but we’ve shared some times along the way, haven’t we? Trudging through the foothills of the lower positions – ascending the graceful slopes of the middle positions – and now here we all are: giddy with altitude sickness, inches away from the summit, half-blinded by the dazzling lights of the Final Five. Exhausted, and yet strangely exhilarated.

Yeah, you’re right. I can’t think of one damned thing to say about this Morrissey single. Ummm… well… it’s yer Masterful Grasp Of Rock Dynamics, innit? It’s yer Tension And Release!

Kids: with Morrissey’s other three singles of 2004 already listed in the countdown (at numbers 65, 59 and 48), you could have seen this one coming. Time is running out. Choose wisely.

Singles of the year: #6

6. Covered In Punk – Portobella

1999: My Name Is – Eminem
1994: All I Wanna Do – Sheryl Crow (WHAT THE HELL WAS I THINKING?)
1989: Ride On Time – Black Box
1984: Beat Box / Diversions 1-4 / Moments In Love – Art Of Noise

Another smash hit that never was: irresistible turbo-charged bubblegum punk, as assembled by the same guy (Michael Gray) who was responsible for one of 2004’s big gay club anthems (The Weekend).

Apparently, Portobella were also the winners of some reality show on MTV. Fat lot of good it did them, then.

Coming Soon: The Top Five. Have you made your prediction yet?

(To view the countdown so far, please check the comments box beneath this post.)

Singles of the year: #7 (NMC)

7. Dry Your Eyes – The Streets

1999: Rendez-Vous – Basement Jaxx
1994: Parklife – Blur
1989: Fools Gold/What The World Is Waiting For – The Stone Roses
1984: I Feel For You – Chaka Khan

Friday June 25, 2004.


I tried, I really tried.


We had just finished watching the so-so Michael Douglas thriller on Sky. As I needed to check the progress of the match before heading out to meet A in the pub, I successfully negotiated a lightening-quick flick over to BBC1, in the few available seconds before Big Brother.

Only to witness, at that precise moment, Portugal’s extra time goal.

“Oh my God!” we shrieked.

“That’s it then”, I authoritatively declared, still labouring under the delusion that extra time operated on a sudden-death principle. “England are out of Euro 2004”.

And texted A in the sports bar:
I'll get my coat. 😦

And finally looked up again, and realised that the game was still going. A-hum.

“I feel like we’ve jinxed the match”, I wailed.

“Better watch the rest of it, then.”

Within seconds, the last two effete footie-phobes in town had metamorphosed into standard issue Come On Englanders. Why, I could hear our very vocal chords hardening over, even as our vocabulary contracted into guttural monosyllabics.

Shoe-horned into the collective consciousness. Helplessly abased before the Higher Power of Speuuurght.

As Engerland equalised, some deep-seated Pavlovian impulse caused us to rise up off the sofa as one, making those tight little fist-stabs as we did so.

“It’s going to penalties!”

I text A again:
F***ing hell! 🙂
He texts back:
My heart!
We’re not built for this.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Striding into town to make it to the Roberts for last orders, deftly weaving my way through the shell-shocked crowds spilling out of the sports bars, I am struck by the weird, subdued atmosphere that prevails. It’s so… quiet. Everywhere I look, lads are perched on the edge of the pavement; or stretched flat out on it; or slumped against walls, absently texting. Directing my own video-montage, I start mentally overdubbing the soundtrack.

Dry your eyes mate / I know you want to make her see how much this pain hurts / But you’ve got to walk away now / It’s over.

Snatches of conversation:

“I wanna see Sweden f***ing smash them in the semis. No, even better; I wanna see them get to the f***ing finals, think they’re gonna f***ing win, then…”

“Can’t believe they just played that Britney Spears song at the end. Like that’s gonna cheer us up…”

“Yeah but, you gotta admit, it takes a lot of guts to come back and equalise like that, right at the end…”

I give K a quick call, just to bear witness.
“Honestly, you’d think Princess Diana had just died.”

Even in the Roberts, the queens are all a-twitter. At the bar, I tell the story of how my Nokia – the gayest mobile in the whole world, like, ever – had changed footie to ennui. People start checking their own.

“No, it just comes up with foothe.”

“Darling! Ennui simply isn’t in my lexicon!”

As the beers kick in, a sort of refractory queeniness has begun to steal over us. A necessary corrective process, no doubt. Excitedly, A starts to tell me all about his new bit-of-rough builder friend.

“Darling! Lucky you! How rough exactly?”

“Well, just before Euro 2004, the police called round to his house and confiscated his passport. I think he must be on some sort of List.”

“Darling! The sex must be fabulous! But does he know that you’re a native Portugese speaker? He doesn’t? Oh, I don’t think you should tell him. At least, not unless you’re up for some extremely adventurous role play…”

In the late bar over the road, the mutual healing continues until stupid o’clock. Even the regular Thursday night trannies are bitching about that silly Swiss hem-hem of a ref. As ever, the more slurred and messy everyone gets, the more fulsomely articulate I become. (Why is this?)

It’s the landlord’s last night, so the final rounds of drinks are on the house. The wiry little skinhead in the corner has hitched his T-shirt up, his beltless waistband down, and is distractedly stroking the area in between, over and over and over again; the effect is quite mesmerising. Pints are sloshed onto the carpet, nonchalantly; arses are grabbed, inappropriately; no-one can understand a word that anyone else is saying, but no-one seems to care.

Good grief. We’re not even like this over Eurovision.

As you were, sisters. As you were.

(This piece originally appeared as a guest post on Sashinka.)

Already listed:
#7 Dry Your Eyes – The Streets (dave again) · #15 Heartbeats – The Knife (Swish David) · #16Trick Me – Kelis (Ben) · #19 Babycakes – 3 Of A Kind (dave) · #29 Girls (rex the dog mix) – The Prodigy (Waitrose David) · #32 Toxic – Britney Spears (Angus) · #36 I Believe In You – Kylie Minogue (Joe) · #38 Love Machine – Girls Aloud (Alan) · #49 The Show – Girls Aloud (Paul) ·#64 Take Your Mama – Scissor Sisters (Chig) · #85 Matinee – Franz Ferdinand (timothy)

Not (yet?) listed:
Tits On The Radio – Scissor Sisters (Todd) · Filthy/Gorgeous – Scissor Sisters (asta) · Common People – William Shatner & Joe Jackson (Gary F.) · Real To Me – Brian McFadden (Alan again) ·Music Is My Boyfriend – Hidden Cameras (timothy again) · Double Drop – Fierce Girl (Chig again) · Take Me Out – Franz Ferdinand (Blue Witch)

Singles of the year: #8

8. I’m A Cuckoo / I’m A Cuckoo (Avalanches remix) – Belle & Sebastian

1999: Afrika Shox/Phat Planet – Leftfield
1994: Live Forever – Oasis
1989: She Drives Me Crazy – Fine Young Cannibals
1984: Rock Box – Run DMC

Best bit of the Avalanches remix (although “remake” is probably a better term in this instance) – when the track finishes, and the South Sudanese choir keep right on chanting, eventually dissolving into whoops and cheers, and one final uproarious burst of laughter.

Singles of the year: #9

9. You Are The Generation That Bought More Shoes And You Get What You Deserve – Johnny Boy

1999: I Try – Daffy Duck Macy Gray
(Hmm. Some songs have more longevity than others, don’t they?)
1994: Regulate – Warren G/Nate Dogg
1989: French Kiss – Lil’ Louis
1984: Lost In Music (1984 remix) – Sister Sledge

1. For the title alone. I mean, come ON, classic or classic?

2. For James Dean Bradfield’s widescreen, Spector-esque production – right down to the nicking of the “Be My Baby” drumbeat intro. (I’ve been a sucker for Spector pastiches ever since the days of Wizzard.)

3. For the trumpets.

4. For the “yeah yeahs”.

5. For the Tomorrow Never Knows screechy squawky bits.

6. For the way it builds, and builds, and builds, and then builds some more.

7. For the way it sounds like the missing link between Pete Wylie’s Wah! and Little Does She Know by The Kursaal Flyers.

8. For the way that, despite my not having the faintest clue what they’re actually singing about, this still manages to sound Anthemic and Significant and A Definitive Statement Of Its Time, To Which We Should All Pay Heed. Because I like it when pop plays tricks like that.

Hockley Babylon, Trannie Talk, and a couple of MP3s to break your heart. (NMC)

(ADMIN: Post delayed/revised from Monday night, due to the lateness of the hour and the advanced state of decrepitude of the author.)

Flipping heck. Two full days after Saturday’s Last-Night-EVER-At-George’s-Bar Marathon Bender To End All Benders, and my brain is still like concrete. Which TOSSER was it who said “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom”, anyway?

(UPDATE: Oh! It was William Blake! And the full quote actually reads: The road to excess leads to the palace of wisdom – for we never know what is enough until we know what is more than enough. Whoops! Point taken!)

A great night, though – even if poor old K only lasted a bare hour, due to the crowds, the noise and the claustrophobia.

(At which point they put someone on the door, thus swiftly reducing the numbers to a more manageable level, as the mid-evening bridge-and-tunnel crowd moved on to ritzier pastures. Unfortunately, the new regulars-only policy meant that poor old Dymbel was refused admission. If this doesn’t convince him of the benefits of texting, then I fear nothing will.)

For me, the defining pinnacle moment came at around 2am, when Dolly Parton’s 9 To 5 got the whole bar on its feet – even the ones who “don’t dance, darling” – for a shared moment of delirious communion. Trannies on the tables, respectable elderly gentlemen in burgundy cummerbunds tapping their toes, gurning queens passing round the poppers, straight boys snogging gay boys snogging fag-hags, ashtrays spilling onto ruched silk, tables teetering (“careful darling, that’s champagne”), nice young gels hurling their guts up into the one remaining functional wash basin, while other nice young gels held their hair back … Hockley Babylon, it was. We shall not see its like again.

(Neil MovieBuff, another George’s regular, also writes about the night on his own blog, with his customary eloquence.)

I’ve also been corresponding, at some length, with one of my fellow Bloggies finalists – the lovely Siobhan of Tranniefesto – about perceptions of the whole cross-dressing scene, following a comment I left in this post. (Scroll past the rant about traffic in Lancaster, until you get to the section titled Whoo! Long hair!) Part of me wishes that we were blogging our conversation, rather than hiding it away in e-mails – although Siobhan does expand on the subject in this post. (Needless to say, the other part of me wishes that I didn’t spend quite so much time mining real life for blog posts.)

Anyway. To compensate for the break in service, have a couple of MP3s. Both of these popped up at random on my iPod during Monday, and both got me right THERE. The first is a bitter-sweet “farewell to all that” lament, full of wistful regret, which seems appropriate under the circumstances. The second is a heartbreaking soul ballad from 1970, which I found in one of the few crates that remain from James Hamilton‘s collection.

No multi-tasking when you listen to these, please. They both require your full attention.

Nightsong – Sidsel Endresen & Bugge Wesseltoft
(Buy it from Amazon UK.)

Go On Fool – Marion Black
(Buy it from Amazon USA.)