Electric Dreams day 3

By Sunday, I was really starting to feel the effects of trying to do a music festival with a bad cold, and so I sort of staggered through the day powered by a lot of Lemsip Max Strength!  I’d given up drinking by this point as well, which meant the drunks in the venue were even more annoying.

The Butlins cooked breakfast hadn’t done it for me the day before, so I went for a giant stack of pancakes on the Sunday morning, which was marginally tastier.  Geth and I then went back to the hotel room and groggily took ages getting showers and things, so we were a little late into the Centre Stage for the Sunday afternoon session and the first band had already started.

Bands I didn’t see on day 3: nobody, because it was just stand-up comedy in the Reds bar on the Sunday, so I didn’t have to miss any bands!

Bands I did see on day 3:

Black Box

Black Box were mainly doing their late ’80s/early ’90s dance classics, but there was a good highlight where they did a mash-up of Sweet Dreams and Seven Nation Army with the vocals from the former over the bassline of the latter.  They also (obviously) finished with Ride On Time, which was much appreciated by the crowd!

Big Country

Big Country get super major plus points for being the only band of the weekend with the balls to make a ‘Hi-De-Hi’ gag.  Great stuff.  I was also excited to tick off the first of the ‘message’ artists on my Band Aid baby bucket list!

Otherwise it was a very enjoyable hit-laden set – with Look Away, Wonderland, and Fields Of Fire (complete with an interesting interpolation of Whiskey In The Jar) all present and correct!  In another example of the Butlins stage managers not being able to deal with bands trying to do encores, the band went offstage and the DJ launched into Heaven 17’s Temptation (at which point I expressed my surprise to Geth that the band hadn’t done In A Big Country and Geth shrugged and went off to the bar to get us another drink)…and then Temptation abruptly cut out and the band came back on.  ‘We are Heaven 17!’ announced Bruce Watson wryly, before we finally got our rendition of In A Big Country.  I have no idea what’s going on with Butlins and their aversion to encores.

We then had a good long break before the evening session, which gave us some recovery time to have a bit of a doze.

OOTD 2nd December 2018
Sunday OOTD: still in my ‘ill at a festival’ uniform! Jacket unknown brand (estimated vintage 1990s, bought at vintage shop 2003), necklace Claire’s Accessories (2003), t-shirt Punk Masters (2018), jeans Levi (2018), boots Primark (2017).

Peter Hook & The Light

We’d already seen Peter Hook & The Light at Infest this year, but as I’ve alluded to, the crowd at Electric Dreams is a vastly different type of audience.  As such, it was a subtly different show, with more of an end-of-term party atmosphere – Hooky, resplendent in a Christmas T-shirt, explained that it was their last gig of the year, and we got the first (but strangely not the last) of the evening’s Jimmy Savile jokes.  Geth went down to the front of the stage while I kept the seats, and from where I was sitting, it just felt really, really weird when the crowd didn’t react at all to the band launching into Joy Division classics like Transmission (especially as I last saw the band at a goth festival with lots of other goths, a subculture in which the Joy Division stuff is absolutely sacrosanct).  Geth reported after the set that from his viewpoint near the front of the stage, the band pretty much phoned in the first couple of Joy Division songs until they realised that there was a small group of people down the front who were actually fans, after which they did things properly.

The audience all went nuts for Blue Monday though, so that’s something!  Hooky also did the gag about turning the lights up on the crowd and then immediately going ‘argh, no!’, which would probably have been funnier if Big Country hadn’t done the exact same joke earlier that day.

The set was pretty much the same as when I saw them at Infest, except for there being a couple of extra New Order songs – they did Regret, which is one of my absolute favourites (I had it on my Greatest Hits of 1993 album when I was eight).  It was also great to hear Temptation again, because the music geek in me was thrilled that it was the first of two famous Temptations we’d hear that night…

Heaven 17

…because Heaven 17 were headlining, and they were hardly going to avoid playing their Temptation, were they?

Before the inevitable closing song, though, we got all the classics – (We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang, Come Live With Me, Let Me Go – and a lot of very funny stage banter between Martyn Ware and Glenn Gregory, who’ve been doing this stuff for nearly forty years and have moved firmly into ‘old married couple’ territory.  This included another Jimmy Savile gag (apparently he introduced their first Top of the Pops appearance) and some slightly risqué Morecambe and Wise references.

There was a cover of David Bowie’s Let’s Dance, which is another song that’s a bit of a theme for covers at the moment.  They also played Being Boiled, which was the Human League’s biggest hit while Martyn Ware was still with the band – which meant that in the space of five days, Geth and I managed to see Being Boiled performed by both the Human League and Heaven 17!  Geth preferred the Human League performance, while I gave the edge to Heaven 17.  Both brilliant and very different though!

I enjoyed the performance so much that I was really surprised when they launched into Temptation to finish the set – it honestly felt to me like they’d only been playing for about five minutes.  I’m so thrilled I got to see them, and not just because it means more artists ticked off my Band Aid baby bucket list!  I’ll make sure to get tickets again when they’re next on tour.

Afterwards, Geth and I finished our drinks and sloped off to get some rest.  All in all, it was a fantastic weekend of music and the bands were great…it was just a shame we had to go to Butlins to see them.

Updated Band Aid baby bucket list progress: song artists 4/37 (10.8%); message artists 2/7 (28.6%); total artists 6/44 (13.6%).

Electric Dreams day 2

I had expected to be able to chill out for a bit on Saturday morning, but Electric Dreams isn’t like Resistanz or Infest where the bands don’t start for the day until four o’clock in the afternoon!  There’s an afternoon music session starting at about half past twelve on the Saturday and Sunday, so by the time we’d gone and had our breakfast, it was pretty much time to get going again.  When we walked into the Skyline Pavilion, they were doing a silent disco showing of Live Aid from 1985, which was a nice touch!

Live Aid showing at Electric Dreams
That is Live Aid up there on the screen, but I’m not familiar enough with the concert to tell you who’s playing. I would have quite liked to go watch this, but we just didn’t have time!

Bands I didn’t see on day 2: Altered Images and Hue & Cry, who were apparently turning the Reds bar into a wee piece of Scotland for the evening.  Under any other circumstances, I would have liked to go see both of these bands (especially seeing as Hue & Cry were on Now! #10 – no, I’m not starting another bucket list, but I do like to see those songs live when I have the chance!).  Unfortunately, because the Centre Stage arena was very popular on the Saturday night due to Marc Almond playing – it took us twenty minutes to get through the queue when the arena first opened – I wasn’t going to risk dashing between venues and not being able to get back in again.

Bands I did see on day 2:

Hazell Dean

Some artists who were big in the ’80s are so opposed to being seen as retro ’80s acts that they wouldn’t touch ’80s revival festivals with a barge pole.  Some artists embrace the whole thing to the extent that they show up on stage wearing the same ridiculous ’80s ‘costume’ as half the people in the crowd.  Hazell Dean is…one of the latter.  The set opened with a cover of Shalamar’s A Night To Remember, which pretty much set the tone.

What I did really appreciate, as a music geek, was that Hazell kept coming out with fun facts about all the songs she was singing.  I was surprised that she played Wherever I Go (Whatever I Do) second, as I’d always thought of that as her biggest hit, but apparently both that one and Who’s Leaving Who (played third) got to number four in the charts!  I also didn’t know that Turn It Into Love was her last Top of the Pops appearance, or that Searchin’ was her first hit.  It was a highly educational set in that respect.  She also did some Abba covers, which went down well with the crowd.

What I’ve found this weekend is that the stage managers at Electric Dreams don’t really know how to deal with bands trying to do encores.  Hazell Dean’s was great though, as when she was told she could go on for an encore, she announced over the microphone, ‘okay, press the button’.  Geth and I had been taking the piss out of the karaoke-style ‘sing along to a backing track’ performance up until then, but we did appreciate the complete lack of bones being made about it at that point!

The Art Of Noise

The Art Of Noise were advertised as doing a DJ set, but as Geth and I are used to industrial performances (which often involve dudes standing still and doing nothing except pressing buttons on laptops), it seemed more like a live performance to us.  The band (collective?) have had fingers in many pies since the ’70s, and so the set included a mishmash of pretty much all the most famous tracks in which they’ve been involved.  Highlights for me included Close To The Edit, the footage of Max Headroom (one of the many awesome visuals that accompanied the music), Owner Of A Lonely Heart, Video Killed The Radio Star, and the mashup of the Prince and Tom Jones versions of Kiss.

Johnny Hates Jazz

Johnny Hates Jazz apparently released a new album in 2013, and so they were mostly playing stuff off that, which was actually really good!  One of those albums I need to check out at some point.  They did do the hits as well, though, and I especially loved I Don’t Want To Be A Hero (another Now! #10 classic!) and Shattered Dreams, which was the closing song.

There was then a break between the afternoon session and the evening session, so we were able to go get some food and investigate what was going on with the DJ sets in Bar Rosso (answer: not much worth listening to).

OOTD 1st December 2018
Saturday OOTD: still ill (although the Lemsip pills are really helping), still rocking the jeans ‘n’ t-shirt uniform. Jacket unknown brand (estimated vintage 1990s, bought at vintage shop 2003), t-shirt Gildan for Infest (2018), necklace Claire’s Accessories (2003), jeans Zara (2018), boots Primark (2017).

Blancmange

Blancmange were the first band of the evening session, and they were great – brilliant energy, really enjoyed it.  Don’t Tell Me and Living On The Ceiling were predictably the highlights, but I also enjoyed Feel Me, which included interpolations of Pull Up To The Bumper and Pop Musik.  Awesome set.

Marc Almond

I took about ten pictures of this set, but they’re all so blurry you can’t actually tell it’s even a gig.  As such, I won’t post one.  I do have some standards.

There were a lot of bands I was really excited about seeing this weekend, but Marc Almond was probably the biggest draw.  He did a brilliant mixture of Soft Cell classics – Bedsitter and Torch both appeared early – and solo stuff (The Days Of Pearly Spencer and Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Heart were highlights for me, the latter partly because I love the Gene Pitney original so much and it’s a lovely tribute).  Towards the end, he got into the real crowd-pleasers like Tainted Love/Where Did Our Love Go? and Say Hello, Wave Goodbye, before finishing with a cover of T.Rex’s Hot Love, which seems to be a bit of a theme at the moment.

Incidentally, a lot of the ‘I’m wearing an ’80s costume’ types showed up to this performance either carrying or wearing inflatable pink flamingoes.  I’m not sure how I feel about that, and I think I’ll probably end up doing a whole separate post on the subject.

Pat Sharp

When I was a little girl, I loved watching Fun House, which ran through the late ’80s and early ’90s and involved a lot of daft stuff like people chucking gunge at each other and other things that kids find hilarious.  It was presented by Pat Sharp, who at the time wore his hair in an infamously bad mullet, except that no-one called it a mullet back then.  Nowadays, he’s made a new career out of ’80s nostalgia, and is always presenting countdown shows on the classic music channels like Vintage TV and Now! ’80s.  As such, it’s not really a surprise that he showed up at Electric Dreams to do a DJ set.

At the start, he promised the crowd that although he’d mainly be playing electro stuff, he’d also be taking a few ‘sideswipes’.  Geth and I only managed about four songs of the set, partly because we were tired but mainly because Geth couldn’t stand it for very long, but it definitely seemed as though there were just as many ‘sideswipes’ as actual electro songs.  The first one was Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas Is You, which was terrible for three reasons:

  1. He could at least have chosen a Christmas song from the ’80s!  Last Christmas would have been a good shout, but there are so many options!
  2. They had cheesy fake snow coming down from the ceiling.
  3. As soon as the song finished, Pat restarted it again so that he had more time for taking selfies with the crowd.  Double Mariah!  Nobody needs that, not even at Christmas time!

I think that was the straw that broke the camel’s back as far as Geth was concerned, but then as we were leaving, out came Sweet Caroline.  Just dreadful.  Especially as it was absolutely pissing it down when we left, so we had to hurry through the pouring rain with no umbrellas or hoods and Sweet Caroline merrily earworming its way into our brains.  Not a great end to the day.

Day 3 review tomorrow!

Electric Dreams day 1

Geth and I have been meaning to go to the Electric Dreams festival for a while, because we were always seeing it advertised on Vintage TV.  (Incidentally, I found out why Vintage TV has disappeared from our channel list – it’s gone online-only for the moment!)  Late November/early December is not usually a good time for us to go away, because of Geth’s work schedule, but he’s got a lighter workload this year, so we decided to go for it.  My decision was also cemented by the fact that Marc Almond is playing – we missed out on getting tickets for the one-off Soft Cell reunion gig earlier this year, so this is a way of making up for it.

The journey from Newcastle to Bognor Regis was as straightforward as it can be when you (a) only realise last-minute that you don’t have seat reservations and (b) have to tube it through London in the middle of the journey because journeys to the south coast always require tubing it through London.  I’d booked inclusive dining at the resort, so we were able to get some food and get settled in our room before getting ready to go out and see the bands.

OOTD 30th November 2018
Friday OOTD: too ill to do proper festival dressing, have shown up in a jeans ‘n’ t-shirt uniform instead. Necklace Claire’s Accessories (2003), t-shirt Punk Masters (2018), jeans H&M (thrifted from Steff 2016).

Bands I didn’t see on day 1: The Blow Monkeys (we’ve already seen them supporting Level 42 this year so didn’t feel the need to see them again), China Crisis (I’d have quite liked to see them but I’m still suffering with my cold and didn’t want to waste too much energy running back and forth between venues), and Living In A Box (they kind of only have that one song that I would want to hear…and we wanted a fairly early night on the first day, ’cause we’re old now and can’t hack it).

Bands I did see on day 1:

Ex Simple Mind

The singular in the band name is not a mistake.  There’s only one ex-member of Simple Minds in the band at the moment (Brian McGee).  This doesn’t stop them doing nothing but Simple Minds classics, which I was a bit disappointed about, ’cause their current singer is Owen Paul and I would have liked to hear him do his ’80s hit My Favourite Waste Of Time (number three in 1986, fact fans).

The set was basically split into two halves – the ‘moody’ stuff, according to Owen, and the ‘hits’.  The moody stuff included songs like Waterfront but sadly not my favourite Simple Minds song, Belfast Child, which would have fit in there perfectly.  The hits were fairly predictable – Promised You A Miracle, (Don’t You) Forget About Me, Alive And Kicking – but played in a slightly bizarre order.  Owen seemed to be suggesting (‘are you ready for the hits to get bigger?’) that Alive And Kicking was a bigger hit than (Don’t You) Forget About Me, which is…not accurate.  They closed with Sanctify Yourself, which was also a bit of an odd choice.

Modern Romance

I wasn’t hugely familiar with Modern Romance’s band history because, as Geth pointed out, they were a bit of an ‘early ’80s Top of the Pops background band’.  I obviously recognised all their Latin-tinged party songs like Ay Ay Ay Ay Moosey and Best Years Of Our Lives, but they’re not an act I’ve been following, so I was reliant on the festival programme to tell me that it’s just the singer, Andy Kyriacou, who remains from the classic lineup.

After doing their three or four hits, they kind of ran out of their own songs and started doing covers.  When we left the Reds venue to go and get a space in the Centre Stage Venue for ABC, they’d just launched into Starship’s We Built This City, which, to be fair, was going down really well with the crowd.

ABC

ABC at Electric Dreams
I know, I know, I can’t take a non-blurry gig photo. That is Martin Fry with the microphone, I swear.

ABC were the headliner for Friday and, naturally, the band I was most excited about.  Geth and I did find some seats – as I’ve mentioned, we’re both suffering from colds at the moment – but I actually ended up on my feet a lot of the time, because I was enjoying the energetic, entertaining set so much.  My highlights were When Smokey Sings (much beloved by me due to appearing on the hallowed tome that is Now! #10) and The Look Of Love (my favourite ABC song) – it was awesome to hear them both.

The only small fly in the ointment was that they played the same song (Poison Arrow) twice, which is an absolute no-no in my book – but to be fair, I think it was because they meant to finish with The Look Of Love and then the stage managers told them they had time for one more song, so they had to repeat something!  The crowd adored it, anyway.

Day 2 review tomorrow!

Gig Review: The Human League at Newcastle City Hall, 27th November 2018

I don’t really feel that I gave this gig the amount of preemptory excitement that I should have done, given that it was sort of sandwiched between the Culture Club gig of a week and a half ago and the Electric Dreams festival that’s coming up this weekend, and also due to the fact that I’ve been ridiculously, ridiculously busy recently.

As such, I didn’t even realise who the support act was going to be (Midge Ure with his band Electronica!) until I happened to see it mentioned on Twitter the morning of the gig.  That was the best kind of surprise, and I spent the rest of the day bouncing off the walls with excitement – apart from anything else, it’s a fairly major scalp for my Band Aid baby bucket list, given that it’s the guy who wrote the song!

Much to the crowd’s delight, Electronica played all the Ultravox and Midge Ure solo classics, along with a much-appreciated couple of songs written for other people!  Geth and I were a bit surprised that the crowd were on their feet right from the off (Newcastle City Hall is a seated venue), but I could absolutely understand it, because it was such a danceable and entertaining set.  Dude can still belt out Vienna like nobody’s business.

(Also, dude retweeted my excitable gibberish.  Yes, he retweets all his mentions, but that was cool.)

Getting retweeted by the Human League and Midge Ure :)
Most days I’m always decrying the general awfulness of the 21st century, but getting retweeted by your favourite pop stars is awesome. I’ll give it that.

Midge Ure & Electronica setlist:

Yellow Pearl
If I Was
Love’s Great Adventure
Death In The Afternoon
Fade To Grey
Reap The Wild Wind
Vienna
All Stood Still
Hymn (The Power And The Glory)
Dancing With Tears In My Eyes

There was a good long break in between Electronica and the Human League, meaning that Geth was able to go and get us another drink.  Highly useful!

The Human League are one of those bands that I’ve loved forever, because they’ve just been part of the furniture of my life.  I don’t remember where I was when I first heard songs like Don’t You Want Me or Love Action (I Believe In Love), because they’ve always just been there.  It was so amazing to see and hear all those songs live – it’s really just the singers (Phil Oakey, Susan Sulley, and Joanne Catherall) who remain from the classic lineup, but frankly, that’s whom you’re there to see.  I have to give a shout out to the stage decor as well – it was all made up of pretty neon boxes, and it looked incredible.

The Human League
This was the unblurriest picture I could manage. I guess I just got lucky for Culture Club.

My highlight was, rather predictably, Don’t You Want Me – it’s not every day you get to see a UK Christmas number one (1981, in case you weren’t aware) performed live by the original artist (and throwing Midge Ure into the mix, that means I actually saw two artists in one show who had written Christmas number ones!  How appropriately seasonal!).  However, there was also an amazing moment when they finished the encore with Together In Electric Dreams, the classic hit that Phil Oakey did with Giorgio Moroder.  It’s one of Geth’s favourite songs, and he never thought he’d get to see it live, so he’s now making noises about the show being a contender for gig of the year (and given how much he loved Peter Hook & The Light and Promenade Cinema at Infest, that’s saying something).

The Human League setlist:

The Sound Of The Crowd
Mirror Man
Heart Like A Wheel
The Things That Dreams Are Made Of
Night People
Seconds
The Lebanon
One Man In My Heart
Louise
Human
Open Your Heart
Who Do You Love
Love Action (I Believe In Love)
All I Ever Wanted
Tell Me When
(Keep Feeling) Fascination
Don’t You Want Me
Being Boiled
Together In Electric Dreams

Updated Band Aid baby bucket list progress: song artists 2/37 (5.4%); message artists 0/7 (0%); total artists 2/44 (4.5%).

Music Review: Now! That’s What I Call Music #101

Today, 23rd November 2018, is the release of Now! #101!  It’s also mine and Geth’s sixth wedding anniversary 🙂

November 2018
This is the way the world looks in November 2018, with pretty anniversary cards on our dresser.

We’re now entering a new exciting era of Now! compilations where I only have to review them every four months!  The first hundred compilations were characterised by a gradually worsening quality of music.  I pray this trend will not continue.  Pop music can’t get any worse than it currently is.  Right?

Track 1: Little Mix and Nicki Minaj – Woman Like Me

Great reggae-style rhythm, but the tune’s pretty dull.

Track 2: Calvin Harris and Sam Smith – Promises

Sam Smith’s voice is great as ever, but the tune is pretty forgettable.  Somehow got to number one for weeks on end.

Track 3: Ariana Grande – God Is A Woman

I really like the tune on this one – nice and epic.

Track 4: George Ezra – Hold My Girl

A little slow for me, but it’s a nice tune.  Only entered the charts today, so it was definitely not a hit when chosen for this Now! compilation!

Track 5: Rita Ora – Let You Love Me

Great atmosphere on the chorus – tune’s a bit generic, but it’s an okay pop track.

Track 6: Benny Blanco, Halsey and Khalid – Eastside

I reviewed this one for New Hits Friday.  It’s grown on me a bit since then!

Track 7: Jess Glynne – All I Am

I’ve never been much of a Jess Glynne fan – I find her stuff very boring and the lyrical content very saccharine, and this track is no exception.

Track 8: Cardi B, Bad Bunny and J Balvin – I Like It

Not super keen on the rap (except the enjoyable nonsense in the first verse about Balenciaga et al.!), but I do love the Latin tinge, and it’s very danceable.

Track 9: The Weeknd and Kendrick Lamar – Pray For Me

Black Panther soundtrack song – really like this epic track.

Track 10: Silk City, Dua Lipa, Diplo and Mark Ronson – Electricity

Bored of these ’90s dance-inspired beats now.  The tune is very generic too.

Track 11: Dynoro and Gigi D’Agostino – In My Mind

I really like the eerie atmosphere – there’s some great instrumentals here.  Not keen on the dance beat though.

Track 12: Loud Luxury and Brando – Body

I reviewed this one for New Hits Friday.  I’m still not hugely keen, but it’s a really irritatingly catchy track that’s constantly ending up on my daily earworm playlists.

Track 13: Maroon 5 and Cardi B – Girls Like You

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Cardi B on track 8.

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

Track 14: Marshmello and Bastille – Happier

Too slow for me, and the tune’s very dull and generic.

Track 15: Clean Bandit, Marina & The Diamonds and Luis Fonsi – Baby

The vocalist on this is calling herself Marina now, but she was formerly known as Marina & The Diamonds (not a band, just a solo artist with a band name, kind of like Florence & The Machine – this was a bizarre 2009/2010 micro trend).  I’ve missed her vocal style and way with a tune.  This is very Latin-inspired, especially due to the involvement of Luis Fonsi.  Great party pop tune.

Track 16: Ellie Goulding, Diplo and Swae Lee – Close To Me

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Diplo on track 10.

Not exciting or original enough for me, but at least it’s got some semblance of a melody, and it’s starting to grow on me with time.

Track 17: Cheryl – Love Made Me Do It

The lyrics are okay if kind of cheesy, but the tune is terrible.

Track 18: Panic! At The Disco – High Hopes

I reviewed this one for New Hits Friday.  It’s become one of my songs of the year – really like this track.

Track 19: The 1975 – Too Time Too Time Too Time

Yes, I know the title’s supposed to be written in all caps with no spaces, but I won’t be having any of that nonsense here.  This is a dignified blog.

Lovely upbeat tune, though – really like this one.  One of my favourites of 2018.

Track 20: Mabel – One Shot

Not a hit – only got to number 44.

It’s a pretty tune, but it’s very generic.

Track 21: Take That – Out Of Our Heads

Not a hit yet (as of 23rd November 2018)!  They did perform it on Strictly last weekend, so maybe it’s not even out yet.

There’s a nice old-fashioned big-band feel about this one – it’s very jaunty.

Track 22: Lily James, Jessica Keenan Wynn, Alexa Davies and Celia Imrie – When I Kissed The Teacher

Taken from Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.  Songs from musicals have been a bit of a chart trend this year.  It’s a fairly bog-standard cover of the Abba song, as is normally the case with jukebox musicals.

Track 23: Andrea Bocelli and Dua Lipa – If Only

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Dua Lipa on track 10.

Not a hit yet (as of 23rd November 2018).

Standard pretty, slow romantic song from Andrea Bocelli – I never get sick of his voice.  Dua Lipa does fine, but she can’t hold a candle to Bocelli.

Track 24: DJ Khaled, Justin Bieber, Chance The Rapper and Quavo – No Brainer

I reviewed this one for New Hits Friday.  I still find it really dull.

Track 25: Dave and Fredo – Funky Friday

This track is:

  1. The second number one this year to get to number one after exhortation from the previous number one artist (in this case Sam Smith with Promises – the previous example was George Ezra (Shotgun) telling people to stream Baddiel & Skinner and the Lightning Seeds’ Three Lions).
  2. The second number one this year to feature the word ‘Friday’ in the title (after Lil’ Dicky and Chris Brown with Freaky Friday).

Nothing much else interesting about this song.  It’s very dull and unmelodious and repetitive – no idea why enough people were listening to it to get it to number one.  Oh, wait, there’s a good instrumental electro bit for three seconds – then it goes back to the boring rap.

Track 26: DJ Snake, Selena Gomez, Ozuna and Cardi B – Taki Taki

Repeated artist mega alert!  We’ve already had Cardi B on both track 8 and track 13.  That is far too much of one artist for one Now! compilation!

I do like the background instrumentals, especially the atmospheric whistling, and the Latin vocals are nice, but the rap is very dull.

Track 27: French Montana and Drake – No Stylist

I quite like the atmosphere, but it’s very repetitive.  Are they trying to win a competition to see who can say ‘Gucci’ the most times in a song?

Track 28: Dennis Lloyd – Nevermind

Great rhythm, very noddable.

Track 29: Khalid – Better

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Khalid on track 6.

The track is so boring that I couldn’t even concentrate on writing this sentence.

Track 30: Martin Garrix feat. Khalid – Ocean

Repeated artist mega alert!  We’ve already had Khalid on track 6 and track 29.  That’s two mega alerts on one compilation, which is not an auspicious start for the second century of Now! entries!

It’s a pretty tune with a gorgeous atmosphere – I really quite like this one.

Track 31: Halsey – Without Me

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Halsey on track 6.

Urgh, this track is so slow!  I do like the synthy background instrumentals though.

Track 32: B Young – 079ME

I reviewed this one for New Hits Friday.  I still think it’s too similar to Jumanji.

Track 33: Stay Flee Get Lizzy, Fredo, Young T and Bugsey – Ay Caramba

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Fredo on track 25.

I reviewed this one for New Hits Friday.  I’m still not keen on it at all.

Track 34: Travis Scott – Sicko Mode

There’s no tune, and the rap is extremely generic, but I quite like the eerie quality of the backing track.

Track 35: Shawn Mendes and Zedd – Lost In Japan [Remix]

Good atmosphere, but the tune’s a bit dull.

Track 36: MK, Jonas Blue and Becky Hill – Back And Forth

More ’90s-inspired instrumentals.  Very generic tune.

Track 37: Jonas Blue, Liam Payne and Lennon Stella – Polaroid

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve only just had Jonas Blue on track 36.

Okay tune with a good pop beat, but it’s not super exciting.

Track 38: Au/Ra and CamelPhat – Panic Room

I quite like the atmosphere, but it’s a bit repetitive.

Track 39: Sigala, Ella Eyre, Meghan Trainor and French Montana – Just Got Paid

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had French Montana on track 27.

Daft song about payday.  The tune’s pretty uninspired, but it’s got a good beat and it’s quite fun – it’s a good danceable party track.

Track 40: David Guetta and Anne-Marie – Don’t Leave Me Alone

The tune is very generic and forgettable. I quite like the electro instrumentals, but on the whole there’s nothing interesting going on here.

Track 41: Hardy Caprio and One Acen – Best Life

Very repetitive, not very inspired, highly boring tune, dull rap.

Track 42: ZieZie – Fine Girl

I quite like the tune, but there’s some very irritating stuff with the vocals going on here.

Track 43: Sigrid – Sucker Punch

Not a hit yet (as of 23rd November 2018).

Nice bit of classic pop with a good atmosphere.

Track 44: Selena Gomez – Back To You

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Selena Gomez on track 26.

The verse is nice, but the tune on the chorus irritates me.

Track 45: LSD – Thunderclouds

LSD are a collaborative project between Labrinth, Sia, and Diplo, hence the name.

It’s the mobile phone advert music.  I actually had it stuck in my head before it got into the charts – it’s a really incessant earworm.  It’s a bit of a messy track, but quite a good tune.

Track 46: Dean Lewis – Be Alright

Dull, acoustic-y ballad.  I never thought I’d type this sentence, but the Streets did this theme much better in Dry Your Eyes back in the ’00s.

Now! That’s What I Call Music #1-#100: the statistics

Well, I meant to post this back around the end of July, shortly after I finished my Now! marathon…but…life got in the way.  What can I say?  I’m a busy girl.

But seeing as Now! #101 is out today, I thought I’d better do my wrapping up of the first 100 entries before we move onto the new era!

I remember that as I gradually listened to all the Now! compilations, they seemed like more and more of a long slog every day.  This is partly due to (a) the fact that every project gets boring after a while and (b) my considered and consistent opinion that pop music has got gradually worse over the course of my lifetime.  However, the stats also show that Now! compilations have got longer over time, although they seem to have levelled off in recent years due to the fact that nobody’s interested in increasing the amount of data you can fit on a CD anymore.

Average track number of Now! compilations for each decade:

  • ’80s (Now! #1 – Now! #16): 31.1875
  • ’90s (Now! #17 – Now! #44): 38.6071
  • ’00s (Now! #45 – Now! #74): 43.0667
  • ’10s (Now! #75 – Now! #100): 44.1154

It also seemed like there were a good number of occasions where I was all like ‘ooh! I’ve seen this song performed live by the actual artist!’ or getting excited about the fact that I was going to see the artist soon.  Apparently, that didn’t happen quite as often as I thought it did:

At the end of the Now! marathon on 20th July 2018, I had seen 60 of the 4,020 tracks on Now! compilations performed live by the original artists, and I was scheduled to see 49 more at various gigs and festivals, some of which I have now seen.  That still leaves a massive 3,911 tracks that I have never seen live, though – most of which I have no interest in seeing!  Maybe I’ll revisit this particular statistic at some point, but I am definitely not going to be doing a similar thing to the Band Aid baby bucket list with this one!

Of the 4,020 tracks on the first 100 Now! compilations, there were 46 songs that were repeated across compilations.  21 of these were on disc two of Now! #100, which I let slide because it was a special celebratory entry, but that still leaves 25 tracks annoyingly taking up slots that could have been given to new tracks.  The most egregious offender was Candi Staton’s You’ve Got The Love, which was featured three times – on Now! #19, Now! #36, and Now! #63.  Florence & The Machine then did an identical-sounding pointless cover of it, which was itself featured twice – first on Now! #74 and then as a duet with Dizzee Rascal on Now! #76 – meaning the song has been featured on Now! compilations a total of five times.

Repeated artist alert!  I was annoyed by an artist being featured more than once on the same Now! compilation a total of 141 times.  Over 100 of these occurred during the ’10s, which has been an era of collaborations – it’s not at all uncommon for there to be four or five artists credited on a track.  5 of the instances were repeated artist mega alerts, which meant an artist was featured THREE times on the same Now! compilation.  The reason this annoys me so much is that when I dabbled in DJing during my university years, I was always taught that you shouldn’t feature songs by the same artist during a single set – it needs more variety.  As such, when it happens on a professionally-created compilation, it’s fairly infuriating!

As mentioned, there were 4,020 songs on the first 100 Now! compilations.  That’s a lot of songs to review in 100 days, which is why the vast majority of what I wrote was one-line stuff like ‘slow and dull’ or ‘happily nodding along here’.

Not on Spotify: of the 4,020 tracks, 152 were not on Spotify, which is highly irritating when you’ve developed the lazy 21st century habit of adding stuff to a playlist with one click.  I mitigated this in three ways:

  1. ‘Not on Spotify’ Type 1: lazy tribute version substitute.  If Spotify didn’t have the original but had a tribute/karaoke style version instead, I just slotted that into the playlist to save having to perform a Type 2, which took effort.
  2. ‘Not on Spotify’ Type 2: YouTube Pause (TM).  This involved having to pause the Spotify playlist, navigate to a browser tab with YouTube on it, and press play on a video.  SUCH HARD WORK.
  3. ‘Not on Spotify’ Type 3: Can’t Find It Anywhere!  This only happened once, with Omero Mumba’s Lil’ Big Man on Now! #54.  The track is apparently so awful that nobody wants to put it on Spotify, YouTube, or DailyMotion, and I certainly wasn’t going to go down the old-fashioned route of downloading it (who puts that much effort into listening to a song nowadays?), so it was the one song in the whole Now! marathon that I didn’t actually listen to.

144 times I had to do the hard work of pausing my Spotify playlist.  144.  I also listened to 7 soulless tribute covers, and had to skip 1 song, which, while it sounds like it was for the best, means that in some respects I didn’t actually achieve 100% marathon completion.  Please just put your stuff on Spotify in future, music people.

A list of the most featured artists on the first 100 Now! compilations:

Robbie Williams: 29 compilations
Kylie Minogue: 24 compilations
Calvin Harris: 23 compilations
David Guetta, Rihanna: 21 compilations
Britney Spears, Coldplay, Girls Aloud, U2: 20 compilations
Katy Perry, Sugababes: 18 compilations
Tinie Tempah: 16 compilations
Boyzone, McFly, Justin Timberlake, Take That: 15 compilations
The Black Eyed Peas, Little Mix, Jason Derulo, Phil Collins, Oasis: 14 compilations
Bruno Mars, Ed Sheeran, Ellie Goulding, Erasure, Gabrielle, Ne-Yo, Ronan Keating, Tina Turner, will.i.am: 13 compilations
Backstreet Boys, Chris Brown, Flo Rida, Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, Olly Murs, Pet Shop Boys, Pink, Queen, R Kelly, The Saturdays, Steps, Texas, UB40: 12 compilations
Akon, Atomic Kitten, The Beautiful South, East 17, Elton John, Enrique Iglesias, Eternal, George Michael, Nicki Minaj, Pitbull, Spice Girls: 11 compilations
Duran Duran, Emeli Sandé, Jessie J, Kanye West, Louise, Maroon 5, Nelly, One Direction, Rita Ora, S Club 7, Sean Paul, Taio Cruz, Wet Wet Wet: 10 compilations

Well done, Robbie.  That record will take some beating.  It doesn’t even count all the times he was featured as part of Take That and as part of charity singles.

And finally: the record for longest gap between first and latest appearances (not counting the repetitions of UB40 and Phil Collins on Now! #100) is held by U2, who first appeared on Now! #5 (released 5th August 1985) with The Unforgettable Fire and most recently appeared on Now! #99 (released 23rd March 2018) with You’re The Best Thing About Me.  That’s a gap of 32 years and 230 days, which is nearly as long as I’ve been alive!

See you in 2051 for the Now! #101 – Now! #200 stats!

Gig Review: Culture Club at Metro Radio Arena, 17th November 2018

I was really looking forward to this gig.  Not even the fact that Geth and I, at some point in the past, got it into our heads that it’d be a clever idea to sign up for a half marathon the day afterwards could spoil my excitement!

Culture Club
Culture Club – and for once, my gig photo is only semi-blurry!

First of all, the support acts for this tour were cracking.  Geth was more excited about the support bands than the main act!

Tom Bailey, formerly the lead singer of the Thompson Twins, was first on.  He played a mixture of Thompson Twins classics and stuff off his new album.  I really quite enjoyed the new stuff and will be checking out the album, but it was definitely the classics that went down a lot better with the audience.  My highlight was Doctor, Doctor, which has long been a favourite of mine due to its gorgeous synth line and its frequent use in Doctor Who montages.

Tom Bailey setlist:

(We Are Detectives – the band came onstage to this tune)
Love On Your Side
Science Fiction
You Take Me Up
Lies
Lay Your Hands On Me
Doctor, Doctor
Hold Me Now

Next up was Belinda Carlisle, who was brilliant and still rocks the stage like she did thirty years ago!  Her voice is still gorgeous too.  My highlight from this set was Heaven Is A Place On Earth, because it’s been a favourite ’80s song of mine for such a long time, and I couldn’t believe I was actually getting to hear it live – but there were so many great hits!

Belinda Carlisle setlist:

Live Your Life Be Free
We Want The Same Thing
In Too Deep
I Get Weak
Circle In The Sand
Summer Rain
Leave A Light On
Heaven Is A Place On Earth

Culture Club are one of those bands where you’re never entirely sure how long a reunion is going to last, because there have historically been tensions among the members.  Indeed, the full original band was not a hundred percent present, because drummer Jon Moss left the tour partway through the US leg and is not performing on the UK leg.  I’m sure he has his reasons, but I was super disappointed not to see him, not least because it means I’ve now got to track him down separately for my new Band Aid baby bucket list project!

It was a fantastic gig though.  So many hits that I’ve heard all my life and never dreamt I would actually see performed live by Culture Club.  So many nods to classic artists beloved by me and clearly also by Boy George – the wee Wham! tribute during Church Of The Poison Mind, and the glam rock section during the encore with T.Rex and Bowie covers.  Victims, my favourite Culture Club song, which I’d been praying they’d play since I bought the tickets.  The wonderful finish of Karma Chameleon, with moments from my life flashing before my eyes: the hilarious Lothian Buses number 26 bus that never fails to crack me up; the crappy old Audiogalaxy download that I had of the song for years that had a slight jump during the first repetition of ‘you’re my lover, not my rival’; the time that my old schoolfriend Laura wrote the lyrics down wrong in my homework diary in high school and I had to correct them:

Homework diary, 7th October 2000
Homework diary, 7th October 2000.  It’s actually ‘lovin’ would be easy’, but I was closer than she was.

I got super emotional during Karma Chameleon, in short.  I’ve had the Now ’80s channel on all day today, and every time it’s come on, I’ve just been staring at the TV all like ‘I actually saw that performed live by Culture Club at the weekend’.

Wonderful concert.  Probably my favourite of the year so far.

Culture Club setlist:

God And Love
It’s A Miracle
Let Somebody Love You
Time (Clock Of The Heart)
Everything I Own
The Truth Is A Runaway Train
Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?
Victims
Different Man
Miss Me Blind
Church Of The Poison Mind/I’m Your Man
Life
Let’s Dance
Get It On
Karma Chameleon

Updated Band Aid baby bucket list progress: song artists 1/37 (2.7%); message artists 0/7 (0%); total artists 1/44 (2.3%).

Being a Band Aid baby, or: one hell of a bucket list

If you’re lucky, there’s something special about the song that was number one when you were born.  Maybe it symbolises something about your life, or your interests, or the person that you ended up growing up to be.  Maybe it’s just a really awesome song.

If you’re unlucky, you end up like Geth and get Theme From M*A*S*H (Suicide Is Painless) (UK number one from 25th May 1980 to 14th June 1980, fact fans!) as your birthday number one.  It’s not bad as TV theme tunes go, but it’s not special to Geth – he didn’t grow up to be a soldier, or an expert on the Korean War, or even much of a M*A*S*H fan, really.

I was lucky, and my birthday number one is special to me.  I love it as a Christmas baby, as an ’80s throwback, as a chart geek, and as a lover of music in general.  It’s an extremely well-known Christmas song – one of those tracks you hear constantly from the middle of November until early January.  It held the record for the best-selling single in UK chart history for more than twelve years, only ever being overtaken by Elton John’s Candle In The Wind ’97 after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales in September 1997.

My birthday number one is Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas?, one of the most famous recordings in music history.

Do They Know It's Christmas?

I was born on 3rd January 1985, the twenty-sixth day of the thirty-five day period (9th December 1984 to 12th January 1985) that Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas? spent at number one in the UK.  From the 1984-1985 UK birthrates available online, I estimate that I share my birthday number one with approximately 71,000 other Band Aid babies, including Georgia Moffett, Lewis Hamilton, and Newton Faulkner.  (I would love to be able to work out the exact number, but the internet is not forthcoming at the moment!)

Due to the ubiquity of the song, I grew up with it, and it became my favourite Christmas song long before I realised that it was my birthday number one.  I pored over the upside-down answers to Smash Hits quizzes that challenged readers to name all the artists involved in the song, and memorised names that were unfamiliar to me in the context of the early ’90s pop music landscape.  I dutifully learnt to sing the song with my primary school class in preparation for our Christmas performance at the local old folks’ community centre.  I waited excitedly for it to come on as soon as my brother and I were allowed to play the family’s Christmas compilation CD (That’s Christmas) on the 1st of December every year.  It’s one of those songs that you hear hundreds of times every year, and so it never really goes out of your mind.  That’s not something you can say about Theme From M*A*S*H (Suicide Is Painless).

The finer points of Bob Geldof’s project to put together a charity supergroup and the song’s recording on 25th November 1984 are well known, detailed in a hundred different BBC4 documentaries and summarised fairly well on Wikipedia (though I highly recommend the Smash Hits coverage of the recording day included in the collection book The Best Of Smash Hits: The ’80s for a bit of period flavour – it has a great group photo of all the artists involved except for Boy George, who infamously didn’t show up till six o’clock in the evening due to oversleeping in New York and having to get on a Concorde back to London).

I’ve been to a lot of concerts in my life, including a lot of concerts by artists who were big in the ’80s due to it being my favourite music era and favourite era in general.  But the other day, it occurred to me that I had never gone to see a single one of the thirty-seven artists who performed on my birthday number one.  I had never even seen any of the additional seven artists who couldn’t make it to the recording and so sent recorded Christmas messages to be used on the B-side of the single.

This is the part of the post where I get to the point.

I will never get to see every single one of the artists involved in my birthday number one.  Sadly, two of the musicians who contributed to the song (George Michael and Rick Parfitt) and two who recorded B-side messages (Stuart Adamson and David Bowie) have since passed away.  But I have decided that I will make a concerted effort to see as many of the rest of them as possible.  After all, I have more opportunity than some.  My brother’s birthday number one is Ben E King’s Stand By Me (a re-entry at UK number one between 15th February 1987 and 7th March 1987), which means that since King’s death in 2015 he has no longer had the possibility of seeing his birthday number one artist.  People who were born between 14th December 1980 and 20th December 1980, when (Just Like) Starting Over was number one following John Lennon’s assassination, have never had the chance to see their birthday number one artist.

Enter the Band Aid bucket list!

For most of my bucket lists, I reckon that if I’m lucky enough, I’ve got another fifty or sixty years left to get them completed.  Time is not so much on my side for this particular list, given that all the artists on it are now in their fifties and sixties and won’t be performing or alive forever.  As such, rather similarly to the huge hoard of ’80s vintage clothing I’m collecting while it’s still cheap and plentiful, I aim to get the bulk of this project achieved while I’m still in my thirties, and so I’m targeting >50% list completion by my fortieth birthday on 3rd January 2025.  That gives me six years, one month and fourteen days as of this post to see as many of the following artists as possible.  I’d better get a wiggle on.

The artists who sang on the track:

The extra artists who recorded messages for the B-side:

Current progress: song artists 4/37 (10.8%); message artists 2/7 (28.6%); total artists 6/44 (13.6%).

I have arranged to find out about future performances by all of these artists using the extremely lazy 21st century method of following them all on Twitter!

I’ll keep updating this post as I see more artists.  I’m looking forward to this project!

Gig Review: Level 42 at Sage Gateshead, 16th October 2018

While Geth and I were at the Sage for the Kim Wilde gig in April, we noticed that Level 42 were going to be playing this year as well.  After being constantly reminded of the gig due to Level 42 popping up on a lot of Now! compilations early in my Now! marathon, I booked tickets, and promptly forgot all about it until this week.

Level 42 at Sage Gateshead
I’ve decided to start calling my blurry gig photography ‘artistic’.

The doors were advertised as 7:30pm, which usually means bands don’t start until nearer to 8pm.  However, when we walked into the arena at 7:35pm after grabbing a drink from the bar, support act the Blow Monkeys had already started playing.  I’ll have to remember that when we go to the Sage in future.

The Blow Monkeys were good, although I didn’t know most of the songs they played – I think it was mostly new stuff, as they’ve recently released a more folky/blues sounding album.  They did finish with It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way, their biggest UK hit from back in the day.

After an interval (giving Geth the usual opportunity to get us some more drinks), Level 42 came on, and launched into a storming stage show.  Early highlights for me included opener Running In The Family, The Sun Goes Down and The Chinese Way, but I really appreciated the stagecraft as well – the lighting was really pretty and well done, and we even got occasional semi-dance routines!  I also want to give a shout out to the three-man brass section – the saxophonist was especially good, but they were all brilliant.

After finishing the main part of the set with The Spirit Is Free (featuring all band members drumming simultaneously, which was pretty spectacular!) and Something About You, we were treated to a lively encore featuring Lessons In Love and Build Myself A Rocket.  Great gig overall, and not even the constant stream of people pushing past our seats to go to the bar/bathroom (including during the last song.  Just why?) could spoil things!

The Sage kicked out in plenty of time for people to catch the last Metro as well.  Good stuff!

Gig Review: They Might Be Giants at Queen’s Hall, 5th October 2018

It’s not very often that They Might Be Giants come over to Europe from North America – indeed, Geth has been waiting to see them for approximately quarter of a century – so when we heard earlier this year that they would be doing a few UK dates, we made sure to book tickets.  It was well worth it, because they put on a really good show, with lots of banter and comedy interludes in between the tunes.

Before the gig started:

Me: How many people do you reckon have come here just to hear the Malcolm In The Middle theme song?

Geth: Nobody.  It looks like quite a geeky, well-informed audience.

(Pause)

Guy behind us: Hey, play the Malcolm In The Middle song!

Geth: Okay, one.

They Might Be Giants
My least blurry gig picture of the evening.

Geth and I got to the Queen’s Hall in plenty of time, as it turned out, because although a support act was advertised, they never materialised, and They Might Be Giants didn’t arrive on stage until an hour after the doors opened.  It was worth the wait, though, because they launched into an absolutely storming first set.  They opened with new track The Communists Have The Music – apparently there’s a brand new video coming for that next week, so I will be checking it out then!  The old favourites soon showed up too, with Particle Man featuring a brilliant interpolation of Sia’s Chandelier, and Birdhouse In Your Soul appearing unexpectedly early (though very much appreciated by me).  There was also a run-out for The Guitar (The Lion Sleeps Tonight), their alternative-lyrics version of the classic song.

The band played a lot of new songs – complete with tongue-in-cheek acknowledgment that the audience might not appreciate them as much as the classics!  I personally found the new stuff really interesting, and I will definitely be listening to the latest album over the course of the next week.

Dead was another highlight of the first set, and I must also give a shout-out to the brilliant brass instrumentalist the band had on tour with them – his trumpet and trombone sections were fantastic and really added to the atmosphere of the gig.  The set finished with some interesting experimental instrumental stuff, and a nicely-timed twenty-minute interval enabled Geth to go and get us some more drinks – always appreciated!

The second set was launched with the video for Last Wave – which is actually Aerosmith and Run DMC’s video for Walk This Way, best explained here.  We were then treated to a rendition of How Can I Sing Like a Girl?, which was given a really poignant context by current events.  Other highlights of the second set for me were Istanbul (Not Constantinople) and Whistling In The Dark, but pretty much everything was a real treat – the band really kept up the energy for the whole evening.

My only complaint was that the gig ended at just the wrong time – Geth and I ran out of the Queen’s Hall just as the number 5 bus was pulling away, and we ended up splurging on a taxi instead!  Great night out though – I will definitely go see the band again when they next play the UK, even if it takes another twenty-five years.

(They never played Boss Of Me (the Malcolm In The Middle theme song), incidentally.)