TV Review: Britain’s Fat Fight with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

In early 2017, I started seeing adverts for Newcastle Can shared by all my diet and fitness groups and in other places – Slimming World, parkrun, dance class, at my physio, in the doctor’s waiting room, on posters around town, etc.  I’ve been logging my weight loss on their website (I’ll log my final weight on there when I hit my Slimming World target – only half a pound to go!), and it’s been nice to contribute to the city effort!

As such, I was looking forward to the accompanying TV series with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, and I wasn’t disappointed – it was really great to see so much of Newcastle on the show, and it finally explained why there had been all these orange footprints around Central metro station a few months back.

As for the main discussion about obesity, it was interesting to hear the thoughts of different groups of people about ways of solving the problem, but I didn’t really feel there was anything said that I didn’t already know – although maybe that’s just because I’ve done so much reading on the subject over the last sixteen months since joining Slimming World.  The conversation with the government felt pretty unfinished as well, so I’m going to keep following the website and see if there’s ever any update on that (the cynic in me doubts it, but we’ll see!).

All in all a good watch, and I think it’s important to make more people aware of the issue through TV shows like this.

Music Review: Now! That’s What I Call Music #44

Day 44, and Now! #44, which was released on 22nd November 1999.

November 1999
This is how the world looked in November 1999 (actually December, you know the drill). Apologies for the poor quality photo, but these are dodgy old TIF scans from the early ’00s! I need to dig out the originals and re-scan them. Technology marches on, and so does my sense of style (I got rid of that shapeless gold velvet thing a LONG time ago).  My parents had the cushions of those screamingly ’70s chairs re-covered in the ’00s, and they’re still in use.

Let’s see what was in the charts as we approached the end of the millennium.

Now! That's What I Call Music #44
Track 1: Britney Spears – …Baby One More Time

Loved it at the time, bought the single.  It’s pretty overplayed these days, but I still have a bit of a soft spot for it.

Track 2: Shania Twain – That Don’t Impress Me Much

I’ve always quite liked this one, and I love her daft leopard-print outfit in the video.

Track 3: Lou Bega – Mambo No. 5 (A Little Bit Of…)

The turn-of-the-millennium Latin pop craze was in full swing by this point, and so songs like this were huge.  I’ve always loved this one – the lyrics are great, and it’s really danceable.  I know it’s early on, but I’m going to make this my top wedding disco track of today.

Track 4: Eiffel 65 – Blue (Da Ba Dee)

I absolutely adored this one at the time, mainly because people were constantly singing it at me (I had, and still have in storage, a bright blue chenille cardigan that I wore constantly between 1998 and 2004 – you can see it in the picture for the Now! #40 review).  I still love the tune and the lyrics – great song.

Track 5: Steps – Tragedy

Daft, epic cover of the Bee Gees classic.  I can’t not mention the ludicrous video, which I must have seen a hundred times back in the day.

Track 6: Geri Halliwell – Mi Chico Latino

Geri Halliwell hopping on board with the Latin craze.  I quite like this tune, and I always appreciate a bit of Spanish guitar.

Track 7: Robbie Williams – She’s The One

I shouldn’t like this ballad (and apparently Robbie Williams didn’t like it himself for quite a number of years), but I do actually really like the tune.  Not sure why, as it’s the kind of thing I’d normally find depressing.

Track 8: Ronan Keating – When You Say Nothing At All

Cover of the country song.  I actually prefer this version, mainly ’cause it’s not country, but it’s still pretty cheesy and pedestrian.

Track 9: Melanie C – Northern Star

I had the Northern Star album and pretty much every track on it was a cracker – Melanie C’s solo stuff was far and away the best out of all the Spice Girls, and not just because she had the best voice.  This track is beautiful and melancholy, with an absolutely gorgeous atmosphere.

Track 10: Sixpence None The Richer – Kiss Me

The tune’s pleasant enough, but I find the theme a bit twee and irritating.

Track 11: Texas – Summer Son

Really like this one – it’s one of my favourite Texas tracks.  Love the instrumentals, love the edgy atmosphere to the song.

Track 12: Moloko – Sing It Back

Great upbeat tune – I’ve always quite liked this track.  Happily nodding along.

Track 13: Bob Marley & The Wailers and Funkstar De Luxe – Sun Is Shining

Remix of the 1971 track that adds a slightly messy dance beat over the top.  Still a great tune though.

Track 14: Diana Ross – Not Over You Yet

Dance track with a good atmosphere and interesting instrumentals.  Quite like this one.

Track 15: Tina Turner – When The Heartache Is Over

I’ve always quite liked this tune, though it mainly reminds me of an episode of Ally McBeal in which Tina Turner featured at the time.

Track 16: Jamiroquai – Canned Heat

Really like this tune – one of my favourite Jamiroquai tracks – though before I became aware of the title, I always misheard the lyric as ‘candy in my heels‘ rather than ‘canned heat in my heels‘.

Track 17: Tom Jones and The Cardigans – Burning Down The House

I owned and loved the Reload duet album that Tom Jones did, and this was probably one of the best tracks on it.  Great tune, wonderful singalong chorus, excellent stuff.

Track 18: Bran Van 3000 – Drinking In LA

Always really liked this one, to the extent that on the one single occasion in my life I have gone drinking in LA (at LAX airport in 2012 while waiting for a connection) I made sure to photograph the moment just so I could caption it appropriately on Facebook.

Track 19: Supergrass – Moving

I find this one a bit depressing – it’s just kind of slow and drone-y.

Track 20: Phil Collins – You’ll Be In My Heart

Boring tune, and I don’t like the country-tinged guitar.

Track 21: R Kelly – If I Could Turn Back The Hands Of Time

Slow, irritating ballad.  Not my thing.

Track 22: Geri Halliwell – Lift Me Up

Repeated artist alert!  This track’s a bit twee and cheesy, so really I think the Now! compilers should have just gone with Mi Chico Latino for this compilation.

Track 23: Tin Tin Out and Emma Bunton – What I Am

We’re certainly getting a lot of Spice Girls solo stuff at the moment.  This one is a fairly uninspired cover of the Edie Brickell & New Bohemians track from 1988.  It’s okay to nod along to.

Track 24: Martine McCutcheon – I’ve Got You

Boring ballad, depressing tune.  Not keen.

Track 25: Backstreet Boys – Larger Than Life

The track’s a great danceable song (especially that epic guitar solo!), and I always liked the Y2K-themed video.

Track 26: Jordan Knight – Give It To You

‘Not on Spotify’ Type 2: YouTube Pause (TM).

Interesting fairground-y instrumental during the intro, and there’s a good atmosphere to this one.  There’s a lot going on, but I quite like it.

Track 27: Gabrielle – Sunshine

Nice tune, but it’s a little slow for me.

Track 28: Honeyz – Never Let You Down

Slow, dull ballad, and I don’t like those.

Track 29: S Club 7 – S Club Party

Another irritating track from S Club 7, though there are some good singalong hooks if you’re in the right mood (approximately six or seven pints should do it).

Track 30: Lolly – Mickey

Pointless cover of the Toni Basil classic, with the only change being the more muddy and electro instrumentals.  Unlike with most pointless ’90s covers, I was actually aware of the original when this one came out, and I remember being totally confused about why someone would release a cover that was so similar, and why anyone would buy it (I did have a friend who actually bought it, though I won’t name and shame!).

Track 31: Ann Lee – 2 Times

Pretty, feelgood, interesting track – I’ve always really liked this one.

Track 32: Vengaboys – We’re Going To Ibiza!

It’s a fairly typical daft Vengaboys track, with the added major irritation that they don’t know how to pronounce ‘Ibiza’, so the lyric sounds like ‘whoa – we’re going to eat pizza‘.  Which is definitely something to get excited about, but maybe not to the point of releasing a song.

Track 33: Enrique Iglesias – Bailamos

Loved it at the time, requested an Enrique Iglesias album for Christmas off the back of loving this track (and then it turned out to be an earlier album that didn’t have this track on it.  Oh well).  Still a great tune.

Track 34: Shaft – (Mucho Mambo) Sway

Oh, it’s this one!  Great atmosphere, great Latin beat.  Good stuff.

Track 35: ATB – Don’t Stop!

ATB using a similar irritating instrumental hook to the one on their last track, 9PM (Till I Come).  Bored already.

Track 36: DJ Jean – The Launch

Annoying, repetitive hook.  Not keen.

Track 37: Groove Armada and Gram’ma Funk – I See You Baby [Fatboy Slim Radio Edit]

Classic dance track, great vocal hook.

Track 38: Wamdue Project – King Of My Castle

I’ve always found this one pretty interesting, mainly due to the utterly incomprehensible lyrics (she’s doing what with her trestle?).  Good tune too.

Track 39: Alice Deejay – Back In My Life

Irritating, repetitive vocals, generic dance backing track.  Never really liked this one.

Track 40: Alena – Turn It Around

Boring dance track, nothing good about it.

Track 41: Tina Cousins – Angel

Pretty vocals, but the track is otherwise very uninspired.

Track 42: Liquid Child – Diving Faces

The vocal sample is awful, but I quite like the electro hooks.

Phone Box Thursday: Grassmarket, Edinburgh

Today marks the first of a few Thursdays cataloguing the myriad phone boxes of the Grassmarket.

Red phone box
Red phone box, Grassmarket, Edinburgh, 25th January 2016.

We’ll start with the one at the end of the street near where the gallows used to stand (see Wikipedia for info if you’re morbidly curious), which is accompanied by one of Edinburgh’s many police-boxes-that-have-been-turned-into-coffee-stands.

Red phone box
From a different angle. Fairly sunny for January!

It’s nice to see another part of the Old Town where the red phone boxes are still standing proud.  I suppose, compared to their surroundings, they’re practically brand new.

Music Review: Now! That’s What I Call Music #43

Day 43 takes us to 19th July 1999 with the Now! compilations.

July 1999
This is the way the world looked in July 1999 (we’re still in the South of France, but this time it actually matches the release month). The weather was hot, the sea was beautiful, and I wish I had more opportunity to go back these days.

On with the summer hits!

Now! That's What I Call Music #43
Track 1: Martine McCutcheon – Perfect Moment

Found it slow, dull and irritating at the time, and guess what?  I still do now.  I quite like Martine McCutcheon as an actor and presenter, but I’m not keen on her music.

Track 2: Boyzone – You Needed Me

So slow and saccharine it’s depressing.  Really dislike this one.

Track 3: Backstreet Boys – I Want It That Way

Loved it at the time and bought the single.  It’s a bit cheesy for me nowadays, but I still quite like the tune.

Track 4: Shanks & Bigfoot – Sweet Like Chocolate

‘Not on Spotify’ Type 2: YouTube Pause (TM).

Annoyed by the tune then, annoyed by the tune now.  Quite like the video though.

Track 5: S Club 7 – Bring It All Back

Highly irritating tune.  I was never much of an S Club fan.

Track 6: Vengaboys – Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom

Another daft theme from the Vengaboys.  Great tune though.

Track 7: ATB – 9PM (Till I Come)

I remember having a discussion on the way home from school with my mate Laura about this track.  She found it irritating because the vocal sample was ‘till I come‘ but the word ‘9PM’ was never spoken.  I suggested that maybe the instrumental hook was meant to represent ‘9PM’, and so for a brief while we had an in-joke of singing the tune to this track in lieu of saying ‘9PM’.  I guess it must have amused us at the time.

Despite all that, the tune’s not much to write home about, and I find the whole thing pretty dull nowadays.

Track 8: Phats & Small – Turn Around

Oh, it’s this one!  I’ve always quite liked this feelgood track – it’s very danceable.

Track 9: Basement Jaxx – Red Alert

Really like that hook, but could do without the messy stop-start intro.

Track 10: Dina Carroll – Without Love

Generic dance beat, boring tune, headache-inducing overblown vocals on the chorus.  Not my cup of tea.

Track 11: Geri Halliwell – Look At Me

Geri Halliwell’s post-Spice Girls solo debut.  It’s alright (the video‘s better than the song) but she did much more interesting tracks later on.

Track 12: Adam Rickitt – I Breathe Again

‘Not on Spotify’ Type 2: YouTube Pause (TM).

It’s another one that reminds me of my mate Laura, as she had a lot of posters of Adam Rickitt.  I actually quite like the song – there’s a nice classic pop aspect to it.

Track 13: Lolly – Viva La Radio

Appalling, painfully high-pitched song with irritating lyrics, irritating verses, messy squeaky instrumentals, and infuriating spoken interjections.  Surprisingly, the tune on the chorus is actually okay.  If someone sampled that it might be quite good.

Track 14: Cartoons – Doodah

Daft dance version of the traditional children’s song.  There’s actually something I find quite endearing about it.

Track 15: Precious – Say It Again

This is one of those late ’90s tracks that sounds more like it came from the early ’90s.  It’s got a nice beat, but the tune’s pretty dull.

Track 16: Honeyz – Love Of A Lifetime

Pretty instrumentals, but the vocal line is very generic.

Track 17: 911 – Private Number

Cheesy, slow cover of the ’60s hit.  Not hugely keen on this.

Track 18: Culture Club – Your Kisses Are Charity

Another reggae-tinged song from Culture Club’s late ’90s era.  Nice tune, quite like it.

Track 19: Beverley Knight – Greatest Day

Not feeling this one – the tune is too messy for me.

Track 20: Melanie B – Word Up

Upbeat cover of the Cameo classic.  It doesn’t live up to the original, but I like the added harmonisation on the vocals.

Track 21: Fierce – Dayz Like That

The atmosphere’s okay, but on the whole it’s pretty bland and tuneless.

Track 22: Tina Cousins – Forever

Lovely tune on the vocals (when they’re not so high in the mix that they make my hearing aids squawk with feedback), but the backing track’s very generic.

Track 23: Baz Luhrmann – Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)

‘Not on Spotify’ Type 2: YouTube Pause (TM).

And it’s yet another one that reminds me of my mate Laura, due to many hours in art class with her telling me how this song sounded like God speaking.  I’ve never thought it sounded like God, but I do like the spoken word monologue throughout the track.

Track 24: Texas – In Our Lifetime

Pleasant tune, but nothing special.

Track 25: New Radicals – You Get What You Give

Great singalong chorus, but I find the tune a bit repetitive.

Track 26: Supergrass – Pumping On Your Stereo

I’m normally not keen on Supergrass, but I do like this one – great vocal hook, and a bit of a ’60s throwback sound, which is no bad thing.

Track 27: Madness – Lovestruck

A welcome return to the charts for the recently-reformed Madness, with a song that’s just as jaunty as their stuff the early ’80s, with a bit of added edgy atmosphere.  Great track, really like this one.

Track 28: The Wiseguys – Ooh La La

Oh, it’s this one.  It’s okay, but there’s a good reason I hadn’t thought about it for many years – there’s just no melody, and the interesting spoken word hook isn’t enough to make up for that.

Track 29: The Chemical Brothers – Hey Boy Hey Girl

It’s too repetitive for me, but I do like the ‘superstar DJ‘ vocal sample.

Track 30: Fatboy Slim – Right Here, Right Now

Loved it at the time, bought the single.  Still really like it now – great tune, anthemic hook.

Track 31: Chicane and Maire Brennan – Saltwater

Lovely vocals from Maire Brennan (including a bit of a reprise from Theme From Harry’s Game), contributing to a great dance track.

Track 32: Bryan Adams – Cloud Number Nine

I remember this being reviewed on the Live & Kicking episode where Zoë Ball and Jamie Theakston were leaving the show, and them being disappointed that it hadn’t come out a few years earlier so they could have used it as the theme tune for their ‘Cloud Nine’ feature.  Strange what you remember.

Anyway, I quite like the track – more than I did at the time, anyway.

Track 33: Blur – Coffee And TV

Great tune, awesome singalong chorus.  Everybody raves about the video, but I refuse to watch it ’cause it makes me sad.

Track 34: Cast – Beat Mama

‘Not on Spotify’ Type 2: YouTube Pause (TM).

Better than most Cast tracks – at least it’s got a good upbeat tempo and chant-along chorus, even if the tune’s a bit uninspired.

Track 35: Stereophonics – Pick A Part That’s New

It’s another Stereophonics track where I find the vocals too droning and depressing.  I’m sure they did do better ones.

Track 36: Gomez – Bring It On

Interesting harmonisation on the intro, but after that it gets a bit messy for my liking.

Track 37: Semisonic – Secret Smile

Nice tune, nice atmosphere, great lyrics.  Really quite like this one.

Track 38: James – I Know What I’m Here For

Pleasant tune, great instrumentals.  Nice track.

Track 39: Yomanda – Synth And Strings

I guess it does what it says on the tin, but it’s not the nice melodious track you might expect from a name like that – it sounds quite nasty, to be honest.

Track 40: DJ Jurgen and Alice Deejay – Better Off Alone

Utterly depressing repetitive vocal hook – never been keen on this.

Track 41: Masters At Work and India – To Be In Love

There’s quite a nice ’70s vibe to this one, but I’m not loving the tune.

Recipe Wednesday: chili

For the last few weeks of trying to get to target at Slimming World, I’ve been advised to do a few SP days when I can, so I’ve been making chili again, which I haven’t done in a while.  It’s perfect for SP, which basically requires meals to be half ‘S’ foods (fruit ‘n’ veg) and half ‘P’ foods (protein).

Chili
My chili from last week. I promptly devoured it in the space of a couple of minutes – SP days make me pretty hungry.

I like this one ’cause it’s a kind of ‘dump everything in a pot and stir occasionally’ recipe.  Boil sliced carrots for about fifteen minutes; once they’re done, drain them and mix them in a large saucepan with chopped onions, two tins of chopped tomatoes, one tin of red kidney beans, one tin of lentils, one tin of chickpeas, a bag of Quorn mince, and a heaped teaspoon of hot chili powder.  Simmer on a low heat for about thirty minutes, adding water if the mixture gets too dry, and then serve with a Healthy Extra A portion of cheese of your choice (I like parmesan, but then I like parmesan with everything – cheddar would be more traditional).

I’m going to be making more of this next week when I do some SP days again!

Music Review: Now! That’s What I Call Music #42

Day 42, and here we are on 29th March 1999, when Now! #42 was released.

March 1999
This is how the world looked in March 1999…well, sort of. Again, we sucked at taking pictures that spring, so here’s one from later in the summer. The South of France never really changes, but I don’t wear tacky fake Hard Rock Cafe T-shirts from tourist stalls anymore *cringe*

Let’s see what the hits were as we went into the final year of the ’90s.

Now! That's What I Call Music #42
Track 1: Boyzone – When The Going Gets Tough

I mentioned this in my review of Now! #7, when discussing the Billy Ocean original.  As I said there, the cover doesn’t do anything different, but it was the Comic Relief single for 1999, so it probably raised a lot of money.  Including mine, ’cause I bought the single.

Obligatory ‘I hate pointless ’90s covers’ rant: And the reason I bought the single is because I thought ‘hey, that’s a great song!’ without realising there was a much better original version.  Sigh.

Track 2: Steps – Better Best Forgotten

Quite liked it at the time, find it super irritating now.

Track 3: Cher – Believe

I don’t hate this as much as some people do – in fact, I quite like the tune – but it was really overplayed at the time, so I don’t think there was anybody who wasn’t sick of it.

Track 4: Steps, Tina Cousins, Cleopatra, B*Witched and Billie Piper – Thank Abba For The Music

‘Not on Spotify’ Type 2: YouTube Pause (TM).

Medley of Abba songs performed at the Brit Awards 1999 by contemporary pop artists in tribute to Abba.  It was pretty cringeworthy at the time, and is even more so nineteen years later.

Track 5: Spice Girls – Goodbye

The Christmas number one from 1998, so it’s one of those ones that feels like it’s the wrong time of year for it.  Pretty track, though.

Track 6: Honeyz – End Of The Line

Like this tune, but the vocals aren’t really to my taste.

Track 7: Billie Piper – Honey To The Bee

Found it a bit dull at the time, but I quite like the tune nowadays.

Track 8: The Corrs – What Can I Do

Lovely tune, great instrumentals.  Big fan of this one.

Track 9: Emilia – Big Big World

Really liked it at the time, find it a bit saccharine now.  Still a nice tune.

Track 10: Tina Cousins – Killin’ Time

Epic-sounding dance track – really like this one.

Track 11: Vengaboys – We Like To Party! (The Vengabus)

Bit of a guilty pleasure, this one, ’cause I do love that singalong chorus (and I have a soft spot for anything with a daft bus theme).

Track 12: Cartoons – Witch Doctor

Dance cover of the ’50s classic.  Always quite liked this one.

Track 13: Ace Of Base – Always Have, Always Will

Jaunty track with a mid-century retro tinge.  Happily nodding along.

Track 14: Blockster – You Should Be

Dull dance track based around a sample of You Should Be Dancing.  It’s pretty uninspired.

Track 15: A+ – Enjoy Yourself

‘Not on Spotify’ Type 2: YouTube Pause (TM).

I quite like the take on Beethoven’s Fifth, but the rap is a bit generic.

Track 16: Deetah – El Paradiso Rico

‘Not on Spotify’ Type 2: YouTube Pause (TM).

I like the La Isla Bonita bit, but the rest of the track is pretty awful.

Track 17: Emmie – More Than This

‘Not on Spotify’ Type 2: YouTube Pause (TM).

Fairly dull dance track.  The vocal is quite nice, but the rest of the track’s pretty uninspired.

Track 18: DJ Sakin – Protect Your Mind (For The Love Of A Princess)

Dance cover of James Horner’s For The Love Of A Princess from the Braveheart soundtrack.  It’s as awful as it sounds.

Track 19: Fool Boona – Popped

‘Not on Spotify’ Type 2: YouTube Pause (TM).

There’s a nice sample from Iggy Pop’s The Passenger in there somewhere, but it gets lost among a ridiculous amount of other stuff going on.  It’s just a big mess, unfortunately.

Track 20: Sash! – Colour The World

Nice tune, but it’s pretty repetitive.

Track 21: Justin – Over You

Slow and dull, and I find the vocal too high-pitched and annoying.

Track 22: Robbie Williams – Strong

Never been a fan of this one – I find the tune super irritating.

Track 23: Lenny Kravitz – Fly Away

Classic rock track, really like this.  Love that singalong chorus.

Track 24: Fatboy Slim – Praise You

A classic!  Great dance track, love this one.

Track 25: Armand Van Helden and Duane Harden – U Don’t Know Me

Highly irritating intro.  Once the hook gets going, it’s sort of okay.

Track 26: Mr Oizo – Flat Beat

I had (in fact, I think I still have) the single of this one.  I don’t like it as much as I used to – it’s fairly tuneless.

Track 27: The Cardigans – Erase/Rewind

Another great rock track from the Cardigans.  Awesome tune.

Track 28: Stereophonics – Just Looking

Urgh, incredibly annoying and depressing chorus.  Don’t like this one at all.

Track 29: The All Seeing I and Tony Christie – Walk Like A Panther

I’ve always liked this track – great tune.

Track 30: The Divine Comedy – National Express

I normally like the Divine Comedy, but this is another one with an annoying chorus.  The verse is great though!

Track 31: Terrorvision – Tequila [Mint Royale Shot]

A classic, and it was a bit of an anthem for me and my friends at the time.  True fact: I drank my first shot of tequila while this song was playing, on Hogmanay 1999, Millennium Eve.  Good times.

Track 32: The Beautiful South – How Long’s A Tear Take To Dry?

It’s a nice tune, but as often happens with the Beautiful South, I find the theme a little awkward.

Track 33: Roxette – Wish I Could Fly

Lovely tune, solid as ever from Roxette – great atmosphere too.

Track 34: 911 – A Little Bit More

It was too cheesy for me at fourteen, so you can imagine what I think of it at thirty-three.  Just no.

Track 35: Dru Hill – These Are The Times

Slow, boring ballad with a forgettable tune, and you know what I think about those.

Track 36: Kele Le Roc – My Love

Another dull ballad.  Not keen on this at all.

Track 37: All Saints – War Of Nerves

Great atmosphere, but there’s a slight disharmony between the vocal and instrumental that gets on my nerves.

Track 38: Ladysmith Black Mambazo – Inkanyezi Nezazi (The Star And The Wiseman)

Nice a cappella track – lovely tune.

Track 39: Blur – Tender

Gorgeous tune, great lyrics – really like this one.

Track 40: Dusty Springfield – You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me

Classic ’60s track, re-released in tribute to Dusty Springfield, who had just passed away in March 1999.  Great song.

My highly festive heat pack

I’ve been back at the physio the last couple of weeks, due to a stiff neck caused by my less-than-optimal desk setup during my busy work period.  Ellie, my physio, has been using a heat pack on my neck, and suggested that I do the same in the evenings to help reduce the stiffness.

What this meant was that tonight I had to go digging through the Christmas decorations, ’cause the only heat pack I own is this wee guy:

Santa heat pack
Santa baby, just get rid of that muscle knot for me kthxbye.

I am pretty sure that the only other time I’ve actually microwaved the wheat bag inside and used him as a heat pack was also not at Christmas.  When it is Christmas, he’s just an extra decoration.

He does feel nice on my neck though.

Music Review: Now! That’s What I Call Music #41

Day 41 brings us to Now! #41, which was released on 23rd November 1998.

November 1998
This is the way the world looked in November 1998…no it didn’t. Again, we don’t have any pictures from autumn 1998, so instead, you get this slightly cringeworthy one from January 1999 of me dressed up for a gangster-themed party. My hair was super curly then – it’s still curly but it calmed down a bit in the next couple of years.

Let’s see what might have been on the CD player at that party.

Now! That's What I Call Music #41
Track 1: Boyzone – No Matter What

It’s a bit slow and saccharine, but it is a nice tune.

Track 2: Robbie Williams – Millennium

The tune is a bit dull, but there’s something quite pleasant about his one.

Track 3: The Beautiful South – Perfect 10

I’ve always been a bit mixed on this one – great tune, but for some reason I find the theme a bit depressing.

Track 4: U2 – Sweetest Thing

I’ve always quite liked this one, and the video‘s still great.

Track 5: Culture Club – I Just Wanna Be Loved

This reminded me that I read in Classic Pop (my new favourite magazine – it’s basically like Smash Hits grew up and is now a middle-aged man) the other day that Culture Club have finally made up and got back together in order to go on tour and release that album that they made a few years back before the last bust-up.  As such, I’ve just ordered tickets, and I’m going to see them in November!  So excited.

This song is from the late ’90s reformation, and it’s quite a pleasant reggae track, but it’s not quite up there with the ’80s stuff for me.

Track 6: Ace Of Base – Life Is A Flower

Loved it at the time, still quite like it now.  Nice tune.

Track 7: Jennifer Paige – Crush

Lovely tune, classic chorus.  I’ve always liked this one.

Track 8: Steps – Heartbeat

The annual music channel Christmas playlists have ensured that this is now a bona fide Christmas song, so it feels wrong in May.  Trying to put that aside, it’s a pretty daft, cheesy song, fairly standard for Steps.

Track 9: Honeyz – Finally Found

We return to the theme from yesterday, of tracks that were also featured on the Top of the Pops 1998 compilation, which I owned for some reason despite liking almost none of the songs on it.  This one has an annoying chorus and a boring theme.

Track 10: East 17 – Each Time

I like the instrumentals at the start, but the vocal is pretty uninspired.

Track 11: Kele Le Roc – Little Bit Of Lovin’

Overblown vocals, slow ballad, generic tune.  Not a fan of this one.

Track 12: Sweetbox – Everything’s Gonna Be Alright

The Bach sample is nice, but the vocals over the top (both sung and rap) are pretty awful.

Track 13: UB40 – Come Back Darling

Fairly standard reggae track from UB40, except it’s got a sort of messy beat that I find a bit irritating.  Shame, ’cause the tune’s nice.

Track 14: Melanie B and Missy Elliott – I Want You Back

So-so effort from the Spice Girls’ Mel B for her first solo single.  The dull tune on the chorus does nothing for me, really…

Track 15: All Saints – Bootie Call

…and bizarrely, the dull tune on the chorus of this one is strongly reminiscent of it.  I’m also irritated by the theme.

Track 16: Aqua – Turn Back Time

Gorgeous tune, love this one.  Great song.

Track 17: Spice Girls – Too Much

The Now! compilers are a little late with this one, as it was the Christmas number one for 1997.  Still a nice tune, though, and possibly my favourite of the three consecutive Spice Girls Christmas number ones.

Track 18: Lutricia McNeal – Someone Loves You Honey

Super cheesy and irritating, but at least it attempts to bring back the sax solo, which was much neglected by this point of the ’90s.

Track 19: Lighthouse Family – Question Of Faith

Really nice tune, great atmosphere.  Good head-nodder.

Track 20: Phil Collins – True Colours

Laid-back cover of the Cyndi Lauper classic.  Interesting, slightly folky instrumentals, but it doesn’t quite have the rawness of the original.

Track 21: Janet Jackson – Every Time

Pretty song – quite like this one, even if the tune on the chorus does massively rip off Go West’s King Of Wishful Thinking.

Track 22: Billie Piper – Girlfriend

Annoyed by it at the time, annoyed by it now.  I remember taking the piss out of this one with mates at school using alternative lyrics, but I can’t for the life of me remember what they were.

Track 23: 911 – More Than A Woman

Fairly pointless cover of the Bee Gees song, with the only real changes being some added tinkly instrumentals and the fact that it’s not sung in falsetto.  Meh.

Track 24: T-Spoon – Sex On The Beach

Well, it’s at least upfront.  Found it a bit awkward at the time – nowadays I just find it interesting as a ’90s musical artefact.

Track 25: The Tamperer and Maya – If You Buy This Record Your Life Will Be Better

It’s pretty similar to their previous hit Feel It, except this time it samples Material Girl instead of Can You Feel It?  It’s okay, but there’s a reason it wasn’t as big a hit as the first one.

Track 26: Stardust – Music Sounds Better With You

‘Not on Spotify’ Type 2: YouTube Pause (TM).

I should be irritated by this one, but I do like that singalong hook.

Track 27: Vengaboys – Up And Down

I’ve always quite liked this one, although it’s not the most memorable of the Vengaboys’ tracks.

Track 28: Sash! and Shannon – Move Mania

The backing track is great, but I’m not keen on the vocals.

Track 29: Touch & Go – Would You…?

I like the instrumentals, and the vocal sample’s used quite well.  While it’s still not exactly innuendo, it’s not as in-your-face as Sex On The Beach (see above), and I actually quite like the track.

Track 30: The Corrs – Dreams [Tee’s Radio Mix]

Pretty, folky cover of the Fleetwood Mac classic.  Really like this one.

Track 31: The Cardigans – My Favourite Game

Great track!  Loved it at the time, love it now.  That guitar riff is gold.

Track 32: James – Sit Down ’98

‘Not on Spotify’ Type 2: YouTube Pause (TM).

We already had the original on Now! #20, but this version is different enough that I’m not going to moan about that.  It’s not different in a good way, though – it’s just really messy.

Track 33: Fatboy Slim – Gangster Trippin’

I like the instrumental hook, but the rest of the track is pretty haphazard and irritating.

Track 34: Eagle-Eye Cherry – Falling In Love Again

It’s okay, but it sounds too similar to Save Tonight.  I prefer artists to diverge a bit more.

Track 35: Sheryl Crow – My Favourite Mistake

A bit repetitive, and it’s too slow for me.  Nice tune though.

Track 36: Robbie Williams – No Regrets

Repeated artist alert!  I know Robbie Williams was having a lot of hits at the time, but that’s really no excuse.

The tune is lovely, and had I been the Now! compilers, I would have chosen this one over Millennium and given the extra slot to someone else.  I’ll remember that when I get round to building that time machine.

Track 37: Space – We Gotta Get Out Of This Place

Interesting, atmospheric cover of the Animals classic.  Quite like this one.

Track 38: Embrace – My Weakness Is None Of Your Business

It’s another depressing one from Embrace.  Droning vocals, slow tune, brings my mood right down.  Next one, please.

Track 39: Alisha’s Attic – The Incidentals

Oh, it’s this one!  Nice tune, but it’s a bit acoustic-y for my liking.

Track 40: Deetah – Relax

Pretty intro, but the instrumentals don’t really go with the rap.

Track 41: R Kelly and Keith Murray – Home Alone

Not enough melody for me, and it’s very repetitive.  Not a fan.

Track 42: Sham Rock – Tell Me Ma

Dance-infused version of the traditional Irish song that I absolutely adored at the time – I bought the single and everything.  It’s still a guilty pleasure, but I do find it a bit daft nowadays!

It’s finally here!

I qualified for my parkrun 50 shirt back in October, but have had to wait for the milestone T-shirt due to a backlog and subsequent changeover in T-shirt company.  But no longer – it arrived today!

parkrun 50 shirt
50 Club member shirt!

Looking forward to wearing this out – I’m hoping to have time for a wee shakeout run this week before the next race, but if not, I’ll be wearing it at Perry Hall parkrun (my favourite parkrun I’ve tried so far) in a couple of weeks!

Music Review: Now! That’s What I Call Music #40

Day 40, and Now! #40, which takes us to 3rd August 1998.

August 1998
This is how the world looked in August 1998. There were maybe other things going on in the world that weren’t me posing on a rock, but this is what you get today. I loved that blue chenille cardigan and wore it constantly for my entire teenage years – I still have it in my keepsakes collection.

Let’s see what the hits were that summer!

Now! That's What I Call Music #40
Track 1: John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John – Grease Megamix

Megamix of You’re The One That I Want, Greased Lightnin’ and Summer Nights from the 1978 film.  It was apparently created in 1990 but wasn’t really a hit until the late ’90s.  This was another favourite at my school youth club.

Track 2: Spice Girls – Viva Forever

Lovely tune, nice melancholy atmosphere, gorgeous Spanish guitar.  The last song of the classic Spice Girls run to feature Geri Halliwell, and in many ways it’s a nicer farewell song for her than Goodbye was.

Track 3: Karen Ramirez – Looking For Love

I had this one on a Top of the Pops 1998 compilation.  I’ve never been that keen, as I find the tune a bit dull.

Track 4: Billie Piper – Because We Want To

Thought of it as a clearly-awful-but-sort-of-guilty-pleasure at the time, now think it’s just awful, but as a Doctor Who fan it’s always amusing to be reminded of Billie Piper’s ’90s pop career.

Track 5: All Saints – Lady Marmalade

So-so cover of the Labelle track.  It would be eclipsed a few years later by the much-more-memorable Moulin Rouge! soundtrack cover, so I’ve not listened to this one in years.

Track 6: Mousse T and Hot ‘N’ Juicy – Horny

You couldn’t escape this one in 1998, and at the time I quite liked it.  It’s not aged well though.

Track 7: The Tamperer and Maya – Feel It

What’s she gonna look like with a chimney on her?‘  That is the lyric, right?  It’s what I’ve always heard, anyway.  Everyone called this ‘The Chimney Song’ at the time.  Nowadays I’m more interested in the Can You Feel It? sample, which works quite well in this track.

Track 8: Aqua – Doctor Jones

Follow-up to Barbie Girl.  I remember a few of my friends complaining because they thought Aqua would have been the perfect one-hit wonder.  This one is a bit uninspired, but there are actually quite a few crackers off that first album, so I’m glad they stuck around for a while.

Track 9: Steps – Last Thing On My Mind

Steps lose the comedy line-dance schtick and settle into their standard full-on Abba tribute sound.  I’ve always found this one a bit annoying, to be honest.

Track 10: Groove Generation and Leo Sayer – You Make Me Feel Like Dancing

‘Not on Spotify’ Type 2: YouTube Pause (TM).

Semi-cover of Sayer’s 1976 track.  It’s basically a messy cut-up sample-y version of the original with a misplaced rap where the verses used to be.  Not impressed by this one.

Track 11: Bus Stop and Carl Douglas – Kung Fu Fighting

Another semi-cover of a ’70s hit, this time with Bus Stop rapping all over Carl Douglas’ classic track.  While it doesn’t quite live up to the original, I’ve always had a soft spot for this version.

Track 12: Ultra Naté – New Kind Of Medicine

Another one that was also on my TOTP 1998 compilation, and it’s another boring tune, I’m afraid.

Track 13: Lutricia McNeal – Stranded

Nice piano opening, but the main tune doesn’t do anything for me.

Track 14: Lighthouse Family – Lost In Space

While it’s not my favourite Lighthouse Family track ’cause it’s a bit slow and dull, I always liked the video because of the helicopter shots of the then-new Angel of the North.  Now that I live near the Angel of the North, that makes it even better.

Track 15: Boyzone – All That I Need

It’s an okay tune, but it’s just a bit too cheesy for me.

Track 16: All Saints – Under The Bridge

Repeated artist alert!  Lady Marmalade and Under The Bridge were a double A-side, and I guess the Now! compilers couldn’t pick which one to include.

It’s a cover of the Red Hot Chili Peppers song that is much less epic than the original.  I quite liked it at the time, though.

Track 17: K-Ci & JoJo – All My Life

I adored this one at the time and even bought the single.  I still think it’s a lovely tune, though it’s a little saccharine for me these days.

Track 18: Janet Jackson – I Get Lonely

Boring tune, irritating instrumentals!  Not keen on this at all.

Track 19: Sparkle and R Kelly – Be Careful

‘Not on Spotify’ Type 2: YouTube Pause (TM).

Another dull, irritating track that was also on my TOTP 1998 compilation (the lyrics are good, but they can’t save the tune).  Looking back, I’m not sure why I bought that compilation – I didn’t actually like most of the tracks that were on it.

Track 20: Peter Andre – Kiss The Girl

Cover of the classic Disney track from Aladdin.  Hated it at the time, still think it’s pretty awful.  It comes nowhere near the original.

Track 21: Don Henley – The Boys Of Summer

Classic 1984 hit, back in the charts for some reason.  Not complaining!

Track 22: The Mavericks – Dance The Night Away

Found it annoying then, find it annoying (and depressing) now.  Never been a fan of this one.

Track 23: Eagle-Eye Cherry – Save Tonight

This one, however, I’ve always loved!  Gorgeous tune.

Track 24: Catatonia – Road Rage

Great, classic singalong track from Catatonia.  Wonderful tune.

Track 25: Natalie Imbruglia – Big Mistake

I’d forgotten about this one!  Great tune with a nice epic chorus.

Track 26: Embrace – Come Back To What You Know

Hated it then, hate it now.  Awful, depressing dirge.

Speaking of which…

Track 27: The Verve – Sonnet

It’s another depressing tune from the Verve, although after that godawful Embrace song, it sounds almost lively.

Track 28: Massive Attack – Teardrop

Great, epic track!  A classic.

Track 29: Mansun – Legacy

This one’s a bit drone-y for my liking.  Not keen.

Track 30: Baddiel & Skinner and The Lightning Seeds – Three Lions ’98

Reworking of Three Lions from 1996 to tie in with the World Cup in 1998.  It’s just as bad as the original.

However…

Track 31: Fat Les – Vindaloo

…if we have to be subjected to England football songs every time it’s the summer of a year that ends in an even number, this is the way to go.  Hilarious song, great video that parodies the awful video for Bitter Sweet Symphony that I mentioned the other day.

Track 32: Fatboy Slim – The Rockafeller Skank

Classic track, anthemic hooks.  Great stuff.

Track 33: David Morales and The Face – Needin’ U

Awful, repetitive dance track.  This was also on TOTP 1998.

Track 34: Lucid – I Can’t Help Myself

Irritating, depressing dance track.  This was also on TOTP 1998.  Why did I buy that compilation?

Track 35: Perpetual Motion – Keep On Dancin’ (Let’s Go)

Irritating squeaky hook throughout, repetitive beat, messy lines, uninspired spoken vocal.  It’s time to get out of the imaginary ’90s nightclub again.

Track 36: Barbara Tucker – Everybody Dance (The Horn Song)

Slight throwback sound to this one, which has a vocal that sounds like it should have been released earlier in the ’90s.  The titular horns, meanwhile, are super annoying.

Track 37: Imaani – Where Are You?

Nice atmosphere to this track, quite like it.

Track 38: Adam Garcia – Night Fever

Pointless cover of the Bee Gees track, released as part of the Saturday Night Fever: The Musical soundtrack.  Because of the nature of the release, it was never going to add anything interesting to the original, let’s face it.

Track 39: Kerri-Ann – Do You Love Me Boy?

‘Not on Spotify’ Type 2: YouTube Pause (TM).

The calypso instrumental is a bit different, and it’s fairly solid pop, but the tune is pretty uninspired.

Track 40: Los Umbrellos – No Tengo Dinero

Another one I’d forgotten about.  I quite liked it at the time ’cause of the Spanish chorus, but I find the vocal pretty irritating now.