Like, does he have a car?

Ah Grease. I first saw it when I was about seven. All of that shiny kitsch 50s Americana does strange things to the mind of little girl in the Hertfordshire suburbs.

A few years later, once I'd made it to Big School I remember my entire class singing 'Summer Nights' whilst waiting for the Geography teacher. I don't think anyone attempted the T-Bird chicken leg dance, but there was a bit of desk tapping going on. Later that same year, a group of older pupils got told off for miming to it in the school Christmas show. The teachers (some of whom were nuns) were a bit put out by the enthusiastic pelvic thrusting.

Has anyone ever written a poncy film studies essay on gender roles in 'Grease'? I suspect they probably have. The whole 'Don't be yourself - dress like a strumpet and men will like you' message is a bit suspect, but there are more complicated things going on with Rizzo and the other minor characters. Theodor Adorno would probably have hated 'Grease'. Not just because of the parade of consumables featured (Twinkies! Ciggies! Hair dye!), but because he would probably have been one of those awkward buggers who preferred 'Grease 2'.

When I was in Sydney in 2001 I went to a 'Singalonga Grease' night which was good beery fun and involved a cast of actors doing a pisstakey am-dram interpretation of the onscreen action. The evening ended with their Danny and Kenickie snogging each other, thus hinting at a deleted scene that never was.

In an ideal universe, all films and TV shows would have animated opening credits. Including 'Newsnight'. And 'The Sopranos'.

Watching the film again as a grown-up is a bit of an odd experience. It's never quite as good as I remembered but it still gives me a bit of a warm glow.

I like the way Danny says 'oh' at the end of 'Summer Nights' - it's just so weird. In yet another parallel universe, John Travolta is the singer of an experiment art rock band who have just reformed for their pensions.


I'd like to meet his tailor

The second of my happy happy songs is 'Werewolves of London'. It's ludicrous. And also quite brilliant. Howling is an underused technique in the world of pop music, though thanks to Shakira and her strange body popping there were werewolves in the charts as recently as last year.

It's a shame that the original video has been taken off You Tube as that involved a man dressed as a werewolf doing a fantastic jaunty walk in time to the piano riff. And that used to make me do a proper snorting laugh. This live performance (complete with Joe Strummer tribute) is almost as good though.

Last year, I wrote a silly story about wolfpeople in Barnet and ended up calling it 'Werewolves of North London'. The plot involved someone turning into a werewolf whilst watching 'Newsnight'. One of these days, I'll write a proper ending for it. In the meantime, I'll howl along with Warren...

Trancentral, eternity, sheep

The New Year grumps have kicked in, so I intend to spend this week posting stuff about the songs that make me giggle like a tickled baby. Not necessarily my favourite songs (though a couple of them are, interestingly enough), but definately the ones which cause sudden outbreaks of smiling.

Today's offering is 'Jusified and Ancient (Stand by the JAMs) by the KLF. This was one of those daft records which was difficult to resist. I remember when the lyrics were printed in 'Smash Hits'* - that was an awesome bit of weirdness. It made me chuckle before I'd even heard the song.

The subtitle 'Stand by the JAMs', aside from being a handy snigger-tastic way to reference guest vocalist Tammy Wynette, helps to differentiate this from the many other variations on 'Justified and Ancient' which the KLF came up with, including the gorgeous, blissful 'White Room' Album version, which sounds completely different from the single and has its own kind of aceness. The re-issue of 'The White Room**' has about 5 different versions tacked on the end of it. Listening to all of them in one go is not at all advisable. Listening to all of them whilst watching the bad quality Neneh Cherry video from Saturday's entry would probably lead to all sorts of bad craziness.



* I liked indie, but I bloody loved 'Smash Hits'. They frequently had free stickers. Despite their pop reputation, they always gave REM (back when REM were really really fantastic rather than just pleasant) single of the fortnight every time they released a single. Sometimes, I miss the early 90s, just a teeny tiny bit.

** The sleevenotes to 'The White Room' list all of the various singers involved according to the songs/noises they contributed, 'Naked Gun' style eg 'Whoah whoah'. Which is awesome.

Buffalo Stance

This afternoon, a DJ on 6Music decided to slot this into their usual indie playlist:

Aside from the 'OMG, this reminds me of being, like, eleven. I'm so old!' factor, I enjoyed hearing 'Buffalo Stance' in the middle of all the slightly lumpen guitar-ness. It made me want to boogie like a drunken uncle and I would have done if I hadn't been reading a book about the 1920s at the time.

Sweetly, the Wikipedia entry for the song explains 'the meaning is to stand like you are posing for a photo-shoot in a London fashion magazine in the 1980's.' Bless. I'm not actually too sure what Ms Cherry is on about, but I like the way her voices switches from South London to Unspecific Town USA. I also like the squeaky balloon laugh.

I'm using a wonky Top of the Pops 2 clip, so the quality is a bit...well, there are places where you'll wonder if your eyes have been taking drugs.

Hello January

The earliest part of every year is always a weird time. Everything's trying to find its footing, like a tiny fawn. This year, there's the phenomenon I like to call 'Snowaggedon' which is making it difficult to find any kind of footing at all.

I had to turn up the bottoms of my jeans this morning to stop them dragging in the snowy dampness. When I got to the station this morning I discovered that I had a doughnut of snow nestled into each turn-up. It was annoying, but at the same time I was kind of wishing that I could save them, keep them in the fridge and occasionally showing them to people with a proud grin.

Anyway, that's the start of the year. Sighing. Grumbling. And laughing about the daftness of it all. Sobbing because my body feels like a flesh sleeping bag whilst eyeing up remains of the Christmas chocolate. Moaning about the cold but secretly wanting to build monster snowmen.

If you're going to set yourself off on a strange whinge/giggle cycle the Buzzcocks make an ideal soundtrack. I've choosen a live performance of 'What Do I Get?' because I like the way the geetars buzz. And because I can't find a version of the proper video which synchs up properly.



A lot of the cool bands from the late seventies dressed like minor characters from 'Grange Hill'. The Buzzcocks looked like cool lads from the third year who would hang around the art room doing interesting things with ink. 'What Do I Get?' is great because it's fizzy, passionate and also slightly silly. For some reason, I'd really like to be able to play it on the descant recorder.

He's alive as he can be!

This evening brought Christmas TOTP2, featuring the inevitable Shakin' Stevens/'Fairytale of New York'/'Wonderful Christmas Time' pile of festive ditties. Having sat through it (taking the odd break to eat noodles) I think I've over-indulged on festive pop. Though of course, there's always room for a little Phil Spector:



I couldn't find any footage of The Ronettes performing 'Sleigh Ride'. This might go some way to explain why all TOTP2 had was a panto version by Denise Van Outen. It didn't even have any horse noises on it. The Ronettes version is adorable, but also has that oddness common to vintage Wall of Sound stuff. Ronnie Spector's voice sounds chirpy but something strange is going on in the background, as though she's being backed by a band of ghosts.

As an extra bonus, someone has put this early 50s 'Frosty the Snowman' cartoon on You Tube so all can admire the lovely way the characters prance around, enjoy the bouncy jazzy version of the song and speculate as to why the snowman is wearing wellies:



Thus concludes my Christmas song rundown. Though I will witter on about pop music again once the late December crazy ride is over.

As Requested...

According to a post on Yahoo Answers, 'Stay Another Day' is a 'Christmas Classic' because 'they dressed like Yetis'.



It's kind of a shame that they didn't adopt the yeti fashion as a permanent look. It would certainly have made them distinct from their early 90s boyband peers Not that East 17 really looked like a boyband. They looked like someone had selected four random men from the nearest scary boozer and offered them popsuperstardom.

Of course, it didn't happen quite like that. Tony Mortimer, the band's songwriter (and also the one with the talent for looking slightly less silly than everybody else) originally had a solo record deal. And then a teeny- bop supervillain decided he needed a vocalist (hence Brian Harvey with his decent choir boy voice and unpop teeth) and some 'dancers' (hence 'the other two' trying to geezer things up with their shaved heads and hip-hop hand gestures.)

The dramatic tale of East 17 makes a good sad story for Christmas. The article I've linked to hints at George Bailey style redemption, but in fact the reunion tour was not a great success. East 17 are still going without Tony. They have recently released a song full of swears and apparently did a late night show in one of Glastonbury's many dance tents earlier this year (which I missed because I was fighting a losing battle with a leaky sleeping bag).

Still, everyone likes 'Stay Another Day' and it has been covered by both Girls Aloud and Glasvegas. The song is basically a young man's attempt to deal with sadness. It also works as a break-up song, with (Christmassy) bells on.

The song also had a non-festive video, which features the band looking thoughtful around a piano, but frankly the white parkas are more memorable.

solstice

And so, the shortest day of the year arrives. And with it the longest, blackest night. Here are two indie pop songs:



Cinematic bitterness, courtesy of the Long Blondes. If this song were a person, it would need a hug. And if it was a person, they would probably smell of liquor chocolates, Rothmans and lipstick.



Ah, the early 90s. This is an awkward bugger of a song, but quite a lovely one. Reminds me of tinsel and howling winds.

Basically, a mash-up from 1977.

In Fopp the other day, I noticed that one of the cashiers was doing ropey (possibly Adam and Joe or Flight of the Conchords inspired) Bowie impressions in order to entertain his colleagues, or at least himself. 'Is there anybody waiiiiiiitiiiiing?' He crooned, 'Is anybody waitin' to be serveeeeed?' I don't think any of the other customers in there heard it above the indie-cool din, but it was very amusing.

It's easy enough to do a pastiche of Bowie being Bowie-ish, but his singing voice can be surprisingly adaptable. Not to the point of singing Miley Cyrus* covers or anything, but he can certainly change things to suit the situation. So his vocals on 'Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth' are a lot better than I remember them being. Bowie and Bing's voices work well together, but for some reason I've always disliked the song. It's just...hollow. The video is hilarious, though - Bowie looks like a hungry wood sprite.

Also, I know 'Little Drummer Boy' is an old song, but at what point in history has a drum ever gone 'pa-ra-pa-pum-pum'? Perhaps it was originally meant to have been a tuba.

(*Bowie wouldn't have got too far on a TV talent show, unless his funny eye was turned into a tragic backstory.)