Village blogging: an update.

Ten days after the official launch, the instant success of our village community blog has surpassed all expectations. New posts are appearing at least twice a day, usually more (to say nothing of static pages on the rest of the site), and people have been quick to grasp the concept of leaving comments. We have received many e-mails from people both inside and outside the village, offering extra written and photographic content, or simply expressing their appreciation. Our initial editorial team of three will have expanded to six by the end of next week; we’ve been mentioned in one local magazine, and are getting whispers about possible coverage in a national magazine; and as for the visitor stats, we pulled in a whopping 429 page views on Tuesday alone.

(It took me about eighteen months of solid, regular blogging to achieve a similar figure on Troubled Diva, and yet the village blog has got there in less than two weeks. Which isn’t bad going for a community with only 500 people on the electoral register.)

What I haven’t yet explained is that there’s a serious purpose behind all of this effort, which extends over and above the immediate benefits of providing an information service and community-building facility.

We are currently seeking funding for an ambitious yet necessary re-build of our memorial hall, and have already passed the first stage of the lottery bid, netting £23,350 in order to help us prepare for the next stage.

To support this application, as well as applications from other funding bodies, a lively and active blog provides demonstrable evidence of our strengths as an active community, that is capable of successfully organising itself. We also hope that it will help to attract commercial sponsors, who will see the benefits of being visibly associated with such a worthy initiative. Many companies set money aside to support projects in their area, and we hope that this will make us a particularly attractive box to tick.

It therefore helps our cause to have the blog being talked about, outside the immediate confines of the village – and we already know that this is starting to happen.

And of course, anything that you can do to help us along would be more than welcome…

Popular reprint #2. “Whispering Grass” – Windsor Davies & Don Estelle.

(As excavated from the comments box at Popular – where it makes slightly more sense in context, but it seemed a shame not to share.)

Re: It Ain’t Half Hot Mum: I’m trying and failing to Form A Position on Melvyn Hayes, but he’s proving rather slippery to pin down.

As a 13-year old who was growing uncomfortably aware that his Fancying GURLS phase of a year earlier was just that, a Phase, the growing prominence of that stock mid-1970s comic character, The Mincing Poof, was… not entirely helpful, shall we say. For in the absence of any other readily available role models, The Mincing Poof was all we had, and she weren’t doing us no favours neither.

But then, that’s the perspective of a closeted and increasingly terrified 13 year old. For if I had been ten years older, more secure in my identity, and acclimatised to the sub-culture, then I might well have regarded Messrs Hayes, Inman and Grayson with a good deal more fondness. After all, as Harvey “Torch Song Trilogy” Fierstein once said of the “sissy boys” of 1930s Hollywood: any representation is better than no representation.

And in any case, all three characters were allowed to maintain quite a substantial degree of dignity, self-knowledge and self-acceptance. They certainly weren’t portrayed as pathetic, self-loathing victims, forever trying and failing to ensnare the hapless heteros. Instead, each was able, in a certain sense, to claim his space. There was mockery, but there was also affection.

Compare and contrast with the out and out minstrel-show vileness of Dick Emery’s “Honky Tonks”, Duncan “Chase Me!” Norvelle, any number of sitcom cameos… and even, I’m sorry to say, some of the more questionable Monty Python representations (Graham Chapman, you should have known better).

Anyway, yes, “Whispering Grass”. I loved the show (as did all my classmates) and I got the joke. Can’t say much more than that.

But better than Dad’s Army? Ooh no, wouldn’t go that far. Better than latter day teetering-into-self-parody Dad’s Army maybe, but those earlier series were in a class of their own.

These army-nostalgia sitcoms were a little sub-genre of their own, weren’t they? And here’s another one: Get Some In, which covered the National Service period of the 1950s. I seem to remember that “POOF-ARSE!” was one of its favourite terms of abuse. Dark days, dark days!

(P.S. A vignette to share with the group. My father, a sentimental man, once burst into tears while watching The Good Life. My step-mother, an unsentimental woman, asked him what on earth was the matter. His stricken reply: “It’s just that Felicity Kendal is SO NICE, and I wish I was married to HER, not YOU.”)

Popular reprint #1. “Oh Boy” – Mud.

(As excavated from the comments box at Popular, as highly recommended as ever.)

Well, I absolutely ADORED “Oh Boy”, perhaps assisted by never having heard the original. (Indeed, I think this may still be true; there’s a glaring Holly-shaped gap in my musical knowledge.) But this was, to a large extent, circumstantial. I’d been at boarding school for six months by now, and hence with far less control over my exposure to music than I had been used to. Thursday night TOTPs were rationed to the first ten minutes, after supper and before prep, when dozens of us literally sprinted out of the dining hall each week, and straight into the TV room to catch every second. And on Sunday evenings, there were enough radio sets knocking around to ensure that we heard the the Top 20.

Other than that, it was a wasteland, dominated by overheard prog leaking from the studies of the senior boys… and eventually, the mono turntable in the common room, which turned up during the Easter term, but which was almost entirely controlled by the Cool Police in the year above (I think one of them owned it).

They were an unusual Cool Police, though. Top power plays included The Allman Brothers’ Brothers And Sisters, Sha Na Na, the first New York Dolls album… and Mud Rock Volume One, which didn’t really fit any of the prevalent definitions of cool at all, but there you go: someone in charge liked them, so Mud were allowed.

This extended to the 7″ of “Oh Boy”, which the Cool Police played and played and played, and played again some more. During the 20 minute morning break period, it was sometimes played as much as three times… and, for whatever reason, all of us loved it beyond all reason.

Maybe it was just – as sometimes happens with chart pop -an almost arbitrary assignment of an anthem, which somehow made us feel that much more aware of the thrill of living in the present. (If that makes any sense at all.) But I do think that it’s stuffed full of great moments, such as the a capella intro and outro bookends (the outro mirroring the intro so closely that it somehow wanted to make you immediately play the whole thing again), and yes, the hesitation on “hesitating”, and the silly breathy voiceover from Ellie Hope (later of Liquid Gold), and really just the lovely crisp choral cleanness of it all. As with most of Mud’s best moments, it felt like a party to which all were invited.

Objectively a 7, subjectively a 10.

Village blogging.

Since the closure of our village shop at the end of February, weekends in the cottage have taken on a notably different complexion. Gone is the (relatively) early morning yomp through the village to pick up a newspaper, milk, bread, eggs and various other bits and bobs – indeed, gone is the very concept of a weekend newspaper. Gone is the opportunity to bump into friends and acquaintances on the street: exchanging pleasantries, catching up with news and gossip, making plans, extending impromptu invitations. (K’s record for “popping out to get a paper” was a socially impressive 90 minutes.) And gone is our regular glimpse at the noticeboard outside the shop, with its various posters, announcements, adverts and miscellaneous pieces of information.

Although plans are well underway to set up a more modest retail venture inside the village pub, there is a subtle but distinct feeling that something significant has been lost. Suddenly, we feel slightly less like a self-sufficient community, and slightly more like a dependent satellite, a dormitory for commuters.

All of which makes the long-awaited launch of our village community blog all the more timely, and all the more significant. We have been planning it for months. There have been prototypes, presentations, strategy meetings, long discussions, calls for volunteers, feasibility studies, brainstorming sessions… why, I even broke a long-held personal rule, and put together a detailed presentation in (hack, spit) Powerpoint.

And now, finally, we have a site which is up and running, with a firm commitment from our team of three to keep it regularly updated. We may not be the first village community blog in the UK (I’ve found three, only one of which is currently active), but I can safely predict that we’ll be the most successful in achieving our aims.

For any of you who have wondered exactly where K and I spend our weekends, the mystery is about to be lifted. Click on the screenshot to access the site…

villageblog

And we wonder why she’s Number One?

Shall we play a little game of spot the difference?

BBC Radio 1 (hip and happening Yoof Music for Ver Kidz), BBC Radio 2 (soothing middle of the road sounds for Ver Mumz ‘N’ Dadz) and BBC 6Music (cutting edge alternative “tracks” for The Burgeoning Middle Youth Demographic) all use last.fm to monitor what tracks they’re playing.

These are the current weekly “most played artist” charts for each station.

Oh, brave new world of Listener Choice!

I shall say no more… (*)

Radio 1:
duff-01

Radio 2:
duff-02

6Music:
duff-06

(*) Update: Actually, there is one more quite important thing to say. Take another look at those three lists. Now tell me how many non-white artists feature on them.

So, that would just be Leona Lewis then? For shame, BBC.

(Thanks to Marcello for the spot. There’s more discussion in the comments.)

See also: Blackbeardblog: A white season. An interesting follow-up post from Tom Ewing.

Which Decade: Cumulative scores, after six years.

1 (1) The 1960s – 205 points.
2 (2) The 1970s – 202 points.
3 (3) The 1980s – 182 points.
4 (4) The 2000s – 164 points.
5 (5) The 1990s – 150 points.

Although the positions on our cumulative league table remain unchanged, it’s worth looking a little more closely at the gaps between each decade.

At the top of the table, the 1970s are still chasing the 1960s hard, with last year’s two point difference widening to a mere three points. However, these two decades are now pulling ever clearer of their nearest rivals, as last year’s 7 point gap between the 1970s and 1980s becomes a yawning 20 point chasm.

The 2000s are making reasonable ground, but with last year’s 26 point lag behind the 1980s only reducing to 18 points, they still have a lot of work to do. As for the 1990s, now lagging by 14 points as compared to last year’s 8, it does look as if they are already out for the count.


I think it’s time for a graph, don’t you? This shows the waxing and waning fortunes of each decade over the past six years. I’m not sure that it proves anything, but doesn’t it look nice?

wd2008-graph


Finally, and in accordance with Which Decade custom, it only remains for me to thank everyone who voted: Adrian, Alan, anne, asta, betty, Bryany, Cathy, chris, Clair, David, diamond geezer, Dymbel, Erithian, Geoff, Gert, Gordon, Hg, imsodave, jeff w, jo, JonnyB, Lizzy, LKSN, lockedintheattic, Lyle, Marcello, NiC, Nikki, Nottingham’sMr Sex‘, Oliver, Rebecca, Rob, Sarah, Silverfin, Simon, Simon C, Stereoboard, Stu, SwissToni, The commenter formerly known as, Tina, Tom, Vicus Scurra, Will and Z. Nearly everyone who took part in last year’s Which Decade came back again this year, which is particularly heart-warming – as is the record number of votes cast, with all rounds picking up over 30 sets of votes for the first time, and some even touching a new high of 40 votes. (Frankly, I’m not sure that I could have coped with many more.)

The Golden Notepad award for Outstanding Commenting goes this year – and how could it not? – to Marcello, whose extraordinary expert knowledge combined with his real passion for the subject has added much to the enjoyment of the last three weeks. Oh, and he also happens to be my favourite music writer on the planet, so it has been a joy to have him along.

As ever, it’s been a phenomenally labour-intensive but also richly rewarding slog, and I look forward to welcoming you all back next February, for what could be our final episode of… Which Decade Is Tops For Pops?

Thank you, and goodnight.

Which decade is Tops for Pops? – the results: THE WINNER.

1st place – The 1960s. (36 points + 1 tiebreak point)

2007: 1st place, 34 points.
2006: 2nd place, 37 points.
2005: 2nd place, 33 points.
2004: 1st place, 36 points.
2003: 3rd place, 28 points.

10. Gimme Little Sign – Brenton Wood. 4 points.
9. Judy In Disguise (With Glasses) – John Fred & His Playboy Band. 5 points.
8. Fire Brigade – The Move. 4 points.
7. Pictures Of Matchstick Men – Status Quo. 4 points.
6. Am I That Easy To Forget – Engelbert Humperdinck. 1 point, least popular.
5. Bend Me Shape Me – Amen Corner. 5 points.
4. Everlasting Love – The Love Affair. 5 points, most popular.
3. She Wears My Ring – Solomon King. 1 point.
2. Cinderella Rockefella – Esther & Abi Ofarim. 4 points.
1. Mighty Quinn – Manfred Mann. 3 points.

Tiebreak round:
This Guy’s In Love With You – Herb Alpert. 4 points.
Fire – The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown. 5 points.
Mony Mony – Tommy James and the Shondells. 6 points.

wd1968Yes indeed: for the third time in six years, the Sixties have swung it – meaning that either you lot are tiresomely predictable, or else that the music from four decades ago was consistently wonderful.

Looking at this little lot, one has to veer towards the latter conclusion. The creative rush of the beat boom (and its close successor, the Summer of Love) was abating, in favour of a lighter, more overtly commercial sound – but there was still an unmistakeable optimism in the air, as evidenced by all that strident brass, those straight-up boom-thwack beats, that toytown surrealism, and those soaring feelgood choruses.

Sure, Englebert and Solomon did their best to poop the party, but they feel irrelevant to the spirit of the age – especially when compared to the exquisite and heart-melting easy listening of Herb Alpert, one of my best finds of this year’s project. (If you only click on one of the YouTube links, then take a look at Herb in action, and then try telling me you haven’t fallen in love with him just a little.)

Meanwhile, the Heavy Brigade were moving elsewhere, as the first divisions between “serious” and “disposable” began to make themselves felt. It was the dawn of that most obstructive of creatures, the Rock Snob – and perhaps the first example of pop music’s periodic need to shed its skin, and to re-engage with a new set of believers.

So let’s leave the “heads” to sneer at the Amen Corner and the Love Affair, while we more enlightened souls raise a glass (I’ve actually just finished my third, but hey, it’s Saturday night) to our winners… our official, mathematically proven Tops For Pops decade… ladies and gentlemen, guys and gals, I give you… THE SIXTIES!