Music Review: Now! That’s What I Call Music #12

Day 12 takes us to 11th July 1988.

July 1988
This is what the world looked like in July 1988, all pink and floral and foxglove-y. I gotta get some of those for the garden of my new house when I finally have time to plant some flowers out there.

Let’s have a listen to the summer hits of that year.

Now! That's What I Call Music #12
Track 1: Wet Wet Wet – With A Little Help From My Friends

Bit of a pointless ’80s cover for me, I’m afraid – other than some vocal stylings on the odd chorus, I’m not seeing what this adds to the Beatles original.

Track 2: Belinda Carlisle – Circle In The Sand

Really like this song – nice tuneful ballad with some epic vocals.

Track 3: Maxi Priest – Wild World

Love those reggae instrumentals, and the vocals are nice and soulful too.  Also, a great sax solo!  Really like this one.

Track 4: Aswad – Give A Little Love

Two reggae-tinged tracks in a row!  I officially feel summery.  This one’s a nice upbeat party song.

Track 5: Climie Fisher – Love Changes (Everything)

Much better than Rise To The Occasion from yesterday, but still a bit saccharine for my liking.

Track 6: Elton John – I Don’t Wanna Go On With You Like That

Really like the drums and piano in the intro, and the song is nice and upbeat.  Nodding along happily here.

Track 7: Scritti Politti – Oh Patti (Don’t Feel Sorry For Loverboy)

Great slow synth intrumentals, but the vocal is too cheesy for me.  (I note I’m saying similar about a lot of songs today – I’m clearly in a more ‘edgy’ mood.)

Track 8: Phil Collins – In The Air Tonight

I’ve no idea why this was back in the charts seven years after its original release, but I don’t care, ’cause this is hands down the best solo song Phil Collins ever did.  That ominous build and build and build until the drums finally kick in is just wonderful.

Track 9: Hothouse Flowers – Don’t Go

This is what I consider a ‘pre-1990s’ song, otherwise known as an ominous reminder that the fun of the ’80s was nearly over and soon we would all be dressing in minimalist neutrals and plaid.  Not a fan of the instrumentals in general, though there’s a bit of sax solo that kind of saves it.

Track 10: Morrissey – Every Day Is Like Sunday

This is probably the only solo Morrissey track I like (other than First Of The Gang To Die, which I developed a soft spot for in 2005), largely because this one is so hilariously gloomy that it’s almost self-parodic.

Track 11: Danny Wilson – Mary’s Prayer

There’s a nice nostalgia factor with this one for me, ’cause our family had it on a Celtic Anthems compilation circa 2000, but I do find it a bit cheesy.

Track 12: Johnny Hates Jazz – Heart Of Gold

Nice interesting instrumentals, good tune.  Really like this one.

Track 13: Voice Of The Beehive – Don’t Call Me Baby

Another one that’s a bit ‘pre-1990s’.  Nice tune though.

Track 14: Iron Maiden – Can I Play With Madness

Am I the only one for whom that title triggers the mental image of Bruce Dickinson asking his mum if he can go round to Suggs’ for tea?  Please tell me I’m not.

Fairly standard rock metal, as you might expect from Iron Maiden – not one of their more exciting tracks.

Track 15: Heart – These Dreams

This softer ballad from Heart doesn’t really have enough edge for my liking, but it’s still a nice song.

Track 16: T’Pau – I Will Be With You

Nice tune, but there’s not much to elevate it above ‘dull slow ballad’ in my book.

Track 17: The Time Lords – Doctorin’ The TARDIS

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

I’m sure everyone knows this is actually the KLF under an alias.  Anyway, it’s a Doctor Who song, so obviously I love it.

Track 18: Sabrina – Boys (Summertime Love)

It’s a classic not-a-guilty-pleasure from my early ’00s ’80s playlist, ’cause I am absolutely shameless about loving this one (it’s the type of song I would traditionally blast on full volume at 3am when drinking alone.  It’s probably for the best I don’t drink alone anymore).

Track 19: Bananarama – I Want You Back

More solid pop from Bananarama.  I really ought to listen to that Wow! album more often.

Track 20: Tiffany – I Think We’re Alone Now

I’ve always found this one pretty annoying, I’m afraid.  Cheesy lyrics, irritating tune.

Track 21: Hazell Dean – Who’s Leaving Who

Great track – awesome epic atmosphere right from the start.

Track 22: The Communards – There’s More To Love (Than Boy Meets Girl)

Nice tune on this one, and some lovely instrumentals – another great track from the Communards.

Track 23: Jermaine Stewart – Get Lucky

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

Nice upbeat bit of pop, though the vocals are a bit dull.

Track 24: Glenn Medeiros – Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love For You

BLURGH.  Cheese on top of cheese on top of cheese.  Far too much for me, not my cup of tea at all.

Track 25: S-Express – Theme From S-Express

This was a hit again in 1998 for some reason, ’cause I had it on a compilation I bought around that time.  I’ve always found it a bit dull.

Track 26: Salt-N-Pepa – Push It

Love this one!  Great singalong party track.

Track 27: Derek B – Bad Young Brother

I usually quite like ’80s rap, but this one’s not really my thing.

Track 28: James Brown – The Payback [Part One]

An early ’70s track from James Brown re-entering the charts.  Not a super exciting song.

Track 29: Rose Royce – Car Wash

Another throwback track, this time from the late ’70s disco era.  Not sure what it’s doing back in the charts in 1988, but it’s a classic party song, and I’m going to make it today’s top wedding DJ dance track.

Track 30: Natalie Cole – Pink Cadillac

Nice funk bass on this track.  Vocals a bit mid-century retro for my liking though.

Track 31: Jellybean and Adele Bertei – Just A Mirage

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

I’ve not really enjoyed the Jellybean songs featured so far in the Now! compilations, but this epic party track is great!  Definitely one for the playlist.

Track 32: Will Downing – A Love Supreme

Nice long sax instrumental recurring throughout, which is always a good thing.  Nice tune too.

Vintage fair haul: Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fair

It was so nice to get back to vintage fair trawling today!

I took a break from the drudgery of my all-encompassing project this afternoon to go to the Boiler Shop in central Newcastle, where I’ve been for different vintage fairs before.  Today it was hosting Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fair, which I’ve previously been to at different venues.  They all kind of chop and change about in that way.

Anyway, on with the haul:

Vintage fair haul
Left to right: grey leather jacket, silver silk blouse, purple/black/white chiffon blouse.

I’m really pleased with today’s purchases!  The jacket will do me perfectly for spring and autumn (and probably for the cooler bits of summer as well, let’s face it!).  The blouses, meanwhile, are to mitigate the fact that post-cull I’ve been lacking in pretty tops.  Probably my favourite vintage fair trip so far – I really feel like I’m learning to spot stuff that I really like, and not just buying things for the sake of it.

Music Review: Now! That’s What I Call Music #11

Day 11’s Now! compilation takes us to 21st March 1988.

March 1988
This is the way the world looked in March 1988 – and it’s a welcome break from the baby photos today, as we had a new-to-us car, a ropey old Austin Ambassador. I loved that car and I cried my eyes out when it broke down and we had to get rid of it a year or two later.

Here’s some music by people who almost certainly drove better cars than my dad did that month.

Now! That's What I Call Music #11
Track 1: Pet Shop Boys – Always On My Mind

Great cover of the Elvis classic.  I love the synth line on this one, but then I love the synth line on pretty much every Pet Shop Boys track.  This was the 1987 Christmas number one – I would say ‘deservedly so’ if it weren’t for the fact that it should have been Fairytale Of New York that year.

Track 2: Belinda Carlisle – Heaven Is A Place On Earth

Love this one!  Another classic from my ’80s playlist I made in the early ’00s.  I used to blast it in my first student flat.  Thankfully my flatmates all loved it too.

Track 3: Billy Ocean – Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car

Is Billy Ocean’s car a dodgy red Austin Ambassador?  If so, I’d get into it any day.  I miss that car.

Great bit of pop, always liked this one.

Track 4: Jermaine Stewart – Say It Again

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

Nice piano intro, nice tune on the chorus, generally pleasant song.

Track 5: Eddy Grant – Gimme Hope Jo’anna

Argh, annoying chorus alert!  Good party song, but give me Electric Avenue any day.

Track 6: Eddie Cochran – C’mon Everybody

Not sure why this ’50s classic was back in the charts, but here it is.  Nice bit of timeless rock ‘n’ roll.

Track 7: Morrissey – Suedehead

Fairly typical of Morrissey’s just-post-the-Smiths era.  I’m not a big fan of this one, there’s nothing in the tune that I like.

Track 8: Elton John – Candle In The Wind

Again, I have no idea why this song was back in the charts more than a decade after its original release, but it was.  I actually prefer the Diana tribute reworking from 1997.  Honestly!

Track 9: Wet Wet Wet – Angel Eyes (Home And Away)

Another annoying chorus – there’s something kind of whiny about it.  I’m not sure what the ‘home and away’ in the title is about, either – it just reminds me of the soap opera, which I’m not sure had even started in 1988.

Track 10: Johnny Hates Jazz – Turn Back The Clock

Kind of a dull one in my book, though the instrumentals are quite nice.

Track 11: T’Pau – Valentine

Really like the way this one builds – great, interesting track.

Track 12: Billy Idol – Hot In The City

A bit repetitive in its tune, but still a good head-nodder.

Track 13: Sinéad O’Connor – Mandinka

Nice upbeat track, love the guitar and the vocals on the bridge and chorus.

Track 14: The Mission – Tower Of Strength

Goth club classic!  Get that two-step going.

Track 15: Whitesnake – Give Me All Your Love

Not as epic as the best Whitesnake songs, but still a nice singalong hair metal chorus.

Track 16: Kylie Minogue – I Should Be So Lucky

This was my favourite song in 1988, but then it was also the favourite song of every other girl in my nursery class (you’re not very original when you’re three).  I still love it – great pop track.

Track 17: Mel & Kim – That’s The Way It Is

More great pop from Mel & Kim.  I think this may be one of my favourites of theirs.

Track 18: Joyce Sims – Come Into My Life [Radio Mix]

Nice tinkly intro, great catchy hooks, great tune.

Track 19: Jellybean and Elisa Fiorillo – Who Found Who

Chair-dancing from the start with this one – bit of a cheesy vocal, but a nice bouncy track.

Track 20: Bananarama – I Can’t Help It

Love this one!  Another solid pop song from Bananarama.

Track 21: Dollar – Oh L’amour

Fun fact: the original Erasure version of this was never a hit, which is probably why this Dollar cover (which was a hit) appears on so many ’80s compilations.  Absolute epitome of a pointless cover, as it changes nothing from the original (in fact, I was playing it the other day and I don’t think Geth even noticed it wasn’t the original, and he’s a huge Erasure fan), but that at least means that it’s just as danceable.

Track 22: Vanessa Paradis – Joe Le Taxi

Slightly slower one, but still a nice track.  One for the chillout playlist.

Track 23: Morris Minor & The Majors – Stutter Rap (No Sleep Till Bedtime)

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

Daft Beastie Boys parody, very of its time.  Mildly amusing, but not playlist-worthy.

Track 24: Bomb The Bass – Beat Dis

How could I fail to love a track with a Thunderbirds sample?  This one is great.

Being the queen of misheard lyrics, I was all ‘OMG, is that the f-word in my lovely innocent ’80s pop?’  No, of course it’s not!  They’re actually singing ‘funky’.  Contrast that to today’s charts, where every second word in pretty much every song has to be muted on the radio.  I hate this century. </getoffmylawn>

Track 25: Coldcut and Yazz & The Plastic Population – Doctorin’ The House

Another annoying chorus.  What is it with those today?  I quite like the rest of the track, though.

Track 26: Krush – House Arrest

Great dance song.  I don’t imagine most wedding DJs would play this one, but I might request it off Geth next time he’s DJing a wedding.

Track 27: Jack ‘N’ Chill – The Jack That House Built

I really like this one as well – lots of chair-dancing today.  Great synth line, love the samples too.

Track 28: Beatmasters and The Cookie Crew – Rok Da House

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

This one’s not so much my cup of tea, though I do like the piano bit.

Track 29: Two Men, A Drum Machine & A Trumpet – Tired Of Getting Pushed Around

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

Wikipedia informs me these were actually a Fine Young Cannibals spinoff band.  I quite like the track.

Track 30: Climie Fisher – Rise To The Occasion

Bit of a dull ballad, which is becoming standard for the last track.  Let’s have something more upbeat, Now! compilers!

A parkrun update!

I’ve been back at parkrun for a few weeks now, and excitingly, everything seems to be going in the right direction.  Today, my time was 32:59, which is only 30 seconds off my PB of 32:29, which I set last summer.  I didn’t feel I was hugely pushing myself today, either, so I bet I can get close to that PB again soon, and hopefully get it down further this year!

This is not bad at all, considering I had such a poor winter of training.  It’s amazing what weight loss can do for your speed – I’ve felt, in the last year, like I’ve been getting much better without even trying.  Hopefully those last few pounds that I still need to drop will speed me up even more!

Music Review: Now! That’s What I Call Music #10

Day 10’s Now! compilation was released on 23rd November 1987.

November 1987
There’s something of a theme developing with these ‘this is what the world looked like…’ pictures. I’m sure the world didn’t just look like our house (and since this particular picture was taken, its background hasn’t changed in the slightest – carpet, intercom and original Victorian doorway are still all exactly the same!), but I guess you don’t get out much with small children, so in our family photo album the world looks very much like our house during that era. Here’s what it looked like in November 1987.

Now! #10 is special to me, because it’s the one we had (and still have) on vinyl – the one Dad always put on the record player for me when I wanted to listen to music, the one I learnt to sing and dance to, the one I grew up with, the one that absolutely shaped my music taste.  While there were a lot of Now! compilations I was familiar with in the ’90s, this one is my one.  I must have listened to it a thousand times.

Let’s have a listen to some tracks I know very, very well.

Now! That's What I Call Music #10

Track 1: Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballé – Barcelona

The opening bars of this track still send chills down my spine – I’m instantly transported back to my parents’ living room as it looked in the last century, the sound of the record on the player that you just can’t replicate digitally, the bass on the speakers of Dad’s homemade sound system, the anticipation of an evening spent listening to music I loved.

The BBC used this song for its coverage of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, so the song also takes me back to summer days in front of the TV at our holiday caravan (we usually had a black and white TV at the caravan but for the Olympics we brought a colour one with us specially), watching Sally Gunnell and Linford Christie winning gold.

How this one shaped my music taste: You know how every third song review I’ve done on this feature seems to contain the phrase ‘epic atmosphere’?  This is the ultimate in epic atmospheres – booming, dramatic, lots of switching between major and minor key, piano, operatic vocals, slow verses building to a huge chorus, the works.  That is what I love in music – something that makes me feel that strange mixture of happy and sad.

Track 2: Pet Shop Boys – Rent

Pet Shop Boys can do no wrong in my opinion, but this is a stunner.  Beautiful lyrical theme, wonderful emotion-inducing synth line, and another of those epic atmospheres I was talking about above.  An all-time favourite.

Fun fact: Carter USM did a not-at-all-pointless ’90s cover of this, which is very different but also absolutely beautiful.  Nothing will ever beat the original for me, but that Carter cover is great.

How this one shaped my music taste: Two words: electronic music.  I’ve always been drawn to electro, and it’s largely because of early exposure to beautiful synthpop like this.

Track 3: The Communards – Never Can Say Goodbye

Another great pop track from the Communards.  More amusement provided by 2017 Strictly contestant Richard Coles in the video, in which he leads the crowd on the disco dancefloor with some dodgy moves that were nonetheless way better than anything he did on Strictly.  Still wish he’d stayed in the competition longer!

How this one shaped my music taste: It’s fast, upbeat ’80s pop.  Say no more!

Track 4: M/A/R/R/S – Pump Up The Volume

This one always scared me a bit as a kid.  I’m not sure why.  I remember that feeling of fear, wanting to go and hide while the song was playing, but I never did.  I just always stayed kind of rooted to the spot until it was over.

As an adult who no longer experiences irrational fear (um, mostly), I find it a great chantalong track, and due to its ‘SAN FRANCISCO/pump up the volume‘ hook, I played it nonstop for a week leading up to a trip to San Francisco in 2011.  True story.  I am super lame.

How this one shaped my music taste: I always give things a chance, even when it doesn’t immediately sound like my cup of tea.  Anything might grow on you eventually.  Even if it’s a song that gives you strange, irrational fear.

Track 5: Hue & Cry – Labour Of Love

Most definitely an example of that unexplainable mid-’80s Scottish band sound, but in a great way.  I absolutely love this track – the rapid tempo, the stop-start hooks, the catchy vocals.  Awesome song.

How this one shaped my music taste: I love interesting hooks.  And piano.

Track 6: Jellybean and Steven Dante – The Real Thing

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

On the surface this one is a bit dull, but it’s got a nice singalong chorus, and I always find myself nodding along.

How this one shaped my music taste: It’s not always the expected tracks that have you chair-dancing.

Track 7: Johnny Hates Jazz – I Don’t Want To Be A Hero

Great upbeat pop song with a catchy, singalong chorus.  There’s something nice and emotional about the bridge, too.

How this one shaped my music taste: You can find a lovely epic bridge in the most unexpected songs.

Track 8: The Style Council – Wanted

Nice feelgood track from the Style Council – as ever, the backing vocals are great.  Love those tinkly instrumental hooks.

How this one shaped my music taste: I really appreciate good backing vocals.

Track 9: T’Pau – China In Your Hand

Beautiful, beautiful song – another one with an epic atmosphere.  The vocals are stunning, the way the song builds is perfect, and that sax solo is brilliantly over-the-top.

How this one shaped my music taste: There’s nothing I like more than an epic ’80s sax solo!

Track 10: Heart – Alone

This one is really special to me.  It’s a gorgeous rock ballad that has really spoken to me throughout various periods of my life, and always makes me quite emotional.  Beautiful lyrics, beautiful guitar solos – epic, epic song.

How this one shaped my music taste: I adore huge overdramatic rock ballads.  Really!

Track 11: Kiss – Crazy Crazy Nights

Great singalong party song from Kiss.  I love those rocked-out verses and the chorus is mega, especially once you hit the key change.

Due to being hard of hearing, and thus having a lot of issues with background noise, I’ve always found it difficult to make out what singers are singing about – I am the queen of misheard lyrics – but this nice, simple chorus is easy to sing along to.  Great job!

How this one shaped my music taste: I have a soft spot for key changes.  I even quite liked it when Westlife used to do their terrible cheesy ones with the accompanying standing-up-from-stools-on-stage.

Track 12: Billy Idol – Mony Mony

Another great singalong rock chorus that even hard-of-hearing types can make out!  In later life, I grew to love other Billy Idol songs even more than this one, but that nice simple ‘mony mony‘ lyric has a special place in my heart.

How this one shaped my music taste: ’80s pop rock, ’nuff said.  It also strongly shaped my fashion taste, due to the accompanying picture of Billy Idol in the record sleeve with all his spiky hair and black leather and general rock attitude.  By the time he showed up in The Wedding Singer a decade later, my love of the ’80s rock look was set in stone.

Track 13: Whitesnake – Here I Go Again ’87

More classic ’80s rock!  Brilliant singalong track that is only enhanced by the over-the-top video and all its ridiculous double Jaguar bonnet cartwheeling.  Not bad for a band from Middlesbrough.

I have to say I prefer this version to the version they originally did in 1982, probably because this is the one I heard so often in childhood, due to this compilation.

How this one shaped my music taste: Hair metal.  I love it and I won’t apologise.

Track 14: The Alarm – Rain In The Summertime

Great feelgood track with lovely jingly instrumentals.  I’ve seen this performed live, when the band played at Beautiful Days 2010.  I dragged Geth to see them, purely because of their presence on this compilation, and he was not impressed!  What I found out that day: playing a song entitled Rain In The Summertime, when outdoors in the British summer, is just asking for it, and the inevitable downpour that struck that evening meant that we had to shelter in the Big Top indoor stage.  We did end up getting engaged that night, so you can’t complain.

How this one shaped my music taste: I have a whimsical appreciation for songs about rain.

Track 15: Marillion – Sugar Mice

Bit of a slow one, but it builds in a great epic fashion, culminating in an awesome epic guitar solo.

How this one shaped my music taste: I really love songs that build well.

Track 16: Wet Wet Wet – Sweet Little Mystery

Great upbeat pop – always been a fan of this one.  I really like Wet Wet Wet’s ’80s stuff, before they got all grown-up and introspective in the ’90s.

How this one shaped my music taste: I appreciate nice, simple pop songs.

Track 17: Curiosity Killed The Cat – Misfit

Really like this one – my favourite Curiosity Killed The Cat track.  As a kid, not being familiar with the idiom, I used to get upset by the band’s name (I love cats).

How this one shaped my music taste: I never judge a band by their name.

Track 18: Los Lobos – La Bamba

A cover of the Ritchie Valens classic.  The cover is very close to the original, but deliberately so as it was recorded for the film La Bamba, which was about Valens, so I’m not going to call it a pointless cover – instead I’ll just enjoy the tune, which is a great party track and was played at every birthday party I went to in the late ’80s.

How this one shaped my music taste: Sometimes the oldies are the goodies.  (And now that it’s the ’80s hits that are the oldies, this has never been more true.)

Track 19: Fat Boys and Beach Boys – Wipeout

Great surf-themed song.  The Fat Boys’ cackle at the start of the song is another thing that scared me as a kid (they also looked pretty scary in their album sleeve picture, which I seem to remember involving snakes), but once the song gets going it’s great, especially when the Beach Boys’ harmonies kick in.

How this one shaped my music taste: I never judge a band by the way they look.  This has served me well in the goth scene!

Track 20: Bananarama – Love In The First Degree

Another pop classic from Bananarama – I absolutely adored this one as a kid and still love it now.

This is another one where the album sleeve picture made a big impression on my young brain.  The band members were all fully clothed themselves, but they each had a topless dude as an accessory.  This is something you’d be less likely to see in pop music today, where female artists are usually hugely objectified and barely clothed.  In some ways, we’ve gone backwards since the ’80s. </soapbox>

How this one shaped my music taste: Bananarama’s music, for me is the epitome of the fun and intelligence that pop music and lyrics used to have.  If pop music doesn’t have that – which, nowadays, it usually doesn’t – it’s not pop music in my book.  It’s that simple.

Track 21: Cliff Richard – My Pretty One

The vocals are far too saccharine for me, ’cause it’s Cliff Richard, but the instrumentals are actually really nice!

How this one shaped my music taste: I know not to listen to Cliff.  Is that cheating?

Track 22: Karel Fialka – Hey Matthew

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

I’ve always loved this one – a really, really interesting song with vocals that, despite having a nice melody when you listen closely, sound almost spoken in some ways, actual spoken word from a child that manages to be interesting rather than annoying, and great screechy electro hooks.

How this one shaped my music taste: I have a soft spot for spoken word.

Track 23: Jan Hammer – Crockett’s Theme

So much better than his main theme for Miami Vice!  I’ve always adored this tune.

How this one shaped my music taste: I love a good instrumental soundtrack.

Track 24: Nina Simone – My Baby Just Cares For Me

Love the plinky piano on this classic track.  Can’t remember why it was in the charts again, but I’m not complaining!

How this one shaped my music taste: I really like interesting piano stuff.

Track 25: Erasure – The Circus

One of my favourite Erasure tracks – but then, I love everything they did in the ’80s.  This is a gorgeous song.

How this one shaped my music taste: More great synthpop that cemented my electro addiction.

Track 26: The Housemartins – Build

Lovely track from the Housemartins – beautiful introspective lyrics and nice slow tune.

How this one shaped my music taste: Sometimes, there’s something beautiful about a slower song.

Track 27: Level 42 – It’s Over

A slower one from Level 42, with really interesting instrumental lines.

And no, I’ve still not booked tickets to that October gig I keep going on about.  I will get round to it soon, I promise!

How this one shaped my music taste: Speaking of slower songs, they can be really musically interesting as well!

Track 28: ABC – When Smokey Sings

Adore ABC, adore this track.  I love that epic intro, Martin Fry’s vocals, the instrumentals – everything.

How this one shaped my music taste: I love songs that bang in right from the start.  Start as you mean to go on!

Track 29: Squeeze – Hourglass

Great jaunty song.  That chorus is just awesome, typical bit of fun from Squeeze!

How this one shaped my music taste: I really appreciate songs that have something whimsical about them.

Track 30: The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl – Fairytale Of New York

An all-time classic.  One of my favourite Christmas songs, and one I learnt to adore early in life, thanks to this compilation.  Just beautiful.

How this one shaped my music taste: Though you might not be able to guess at the moment, due to me being super curmudgeonly about them when it’s springtime, I adore Christmas songs.  I get my playlist on the go in early November and I watch the music channels religiously in the lead-up to the festive season.  Very few of them are as good as this one, but the genre is special to me.

Busy work periods…and how to cope with them

I’m one week into an extremely busy work period at the moment, with one major project plus multiple smaller ones meaning I’m working twelve-hour days, seven days a week.  I have these every so often – it’s just the nature of freelancing – and thankfully it’s never more than a few weeks at a time.  Still, a period like this requires some fairly big coping strategies, and these are the ones I’ve developed:

1. Schedule every last minute

The first thing I always do with a major project is sit down and plot out a schedule for the work up to the deadline, so that I know exactly what will get done when – if I don’t have an idea of this, I find it very stressful.  Sometimes this means that if things take longer than expected, I have to work a bit longer on that particular day, but having plotted everything out means that this is kept to a minimum.

2. Book in some non-negotiable non-work time

By ‘non-negotiable’, I mean things that I can’t back out of.  For this particular project, the busy period happens to coincide with my ongoing mission on this blog to review one Now! compilation a day leading up to 20th July; each review takes me a couple of hours, due to the length of the compilations, so that’s time that I absolutely have to spend doing non-work stuff.  During my last busy work period, which was in October to November, I had NaNoWriMo going on during the latter part, so I had a commitment every day to spend a couple of hours writing fiction.  Writing is nice and relaxing for me, but a less ‘thinky’ non-negotiable thing might be meeting up with friends, such as for the birthday afternoon tea I’m going to in a couple of weeks’ time, or some ‘me time’, such as the vintage fair I’m going to on Sunday (my first vintage fair trip since the house move!  I can’t wait!), or a scheduled class that I pay for every week, such as Slimming World or my Pilates class.  I’m also having to make running a non-negotiable during this particular busy work period, otherwise I’ll struggle with the Sunderland 10k in a few weeks’ time!

3. Postpone all non-essentials

When I’m working twelve-hour work days, other than sleeping, eating and keeping myself clean and presentable, I only have time for work and the scheduled non-negotiables I described above.  Everything else gets shunted to ‘afterwards’.  This generally includes cleaning the house, catching up with TV and the music charts, and, for this particular period, the ongoing project of sorting out the new house.  It just means I will be doing all that stuff with a renewed appreciation when the work period is over!

4. Book in cooking and sleeping time

During a busy work period, looking after myself often takes a back seat.  It’s simply not possible to get as much sleep as I usually would, as I have to be up at the crack of dawn every day to start work, but I make sure I’m at least getting six hours a night.  Similarly, I need to schedule my food preparation time, otherwise I’ll end up just grabbing something unhealthy and feeling worse for it.

These periods are always a bit of a slog, but they are manageable.  Obviously it would be nice if they’d balance out a bit better with the weeks where I don’t have any work at all, but the benefits of being a freelancer are absolutely worth it for me!

Music Review: Now! That’s What I Call Music #9

Day 9 equals Now! #9, which was released on 23rd March 1987.

March 1987
This is how the world looked in March 1987. Well, it did in our house; maybe other people had moved on from the endless brown furnishings. I’m not sure that every toddler was lucky enough to have such an excitingly squishy new toy to play with that month, either *poke poke poke*. Sadly, said toy is not displayed on my display shelves with my other stuff from the ’80s. It is now over six foot tall and resident in Canada, and I only get to see it occasionally 🙁

Here are some tracks that may have floated into my tiny brother’s tiny ears.

Now! That's What I Call Music #9

Track 1: Jackie Wilson – Reet Petite

I hear this one regularly every Christmas period due to its status as the 1986 UK Christmas number one.  As a result, it’s slightly Christmas-associated in my book, and also slightly annoying.

Track 2: Mental As Anything – Live It Up

I wasn’t familiar with this one.  Nice chorus, good upbeat track.

Track 3: Simply Red – The Right Thing

This one’s a bit repetitive for me, though I like the instrumentals.

Track 4: Erasure – Sometimes

This is Geth’s go-to Erasure DJing track, so I kind of associate it with 2.55pm in a goth club.  Great tune, though.

Track 5: Robbie Nevil – C’est La Vie

It’s a bit dull, but there’s something I quite like about it, maybe just ’cause it’s been featured on so many ’80s compilations I’ve heard.

Track 6: Hot Chocolate – You Sexy Thing

This was a hit again ’cause it had a new remix for its tenth anniversary, though I can’t work out whether it was the original or the remix that was featured on this compilation.  Classic tune either way.

Track 7: The Blow Monkeys – It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way

I’ve always liked this one – great chorus, great saxophone riffs.

Incidentally, the Blow Monkeys are going to be supporting Level 42 at that gig at the Sage Gateshead in October!  I should really stop going on about said gig on here and go buy tickets instead.

Track 8: The Housemartins – Caravan Of Love

One of my favourite Housemartins tracks – lovely a cappella cover of an Isley Brothers song from the previous year.

Track 9: Boy George – Everything I Own

Hmm, not for me, this one.  Boy George has basically brought the ‘annoying’ aspect of Culture Club songs into his solo career.

Track 10: UB40 – Rat In Mi Kitchen

Nice jaunty, daft tune.  Love the whimsy of this one.

I should, however, point out that as a professional editor, I absolutely hate that misspelling of ‘my’ in the title.  Just why?

Track 11: The Gap Band – Big Fun

Like the atmosphere of this one, though the samples and vocals are a bit dull.

Track 12: Five Star – Stay Out Of My Life

I’m not a huge Five Star fan, and I find this one pretty dull, though some of the instrumental hooks are quite interesting.

Track 13: Pepsi & Shirlie – Heartache

It’s a bit pop-by-numbers, but I really like that the girls from Wham! got to go and have some hits by themselves (great vocals too now that they’re not playing second fiddle to George Michael!) before fading into obscurity again.

Track 14: Bananarama – Trick Of The Night

Love that sax intro, love the atmosphere of this one.  Great track.

Track 15: Berlin – Take My Breath Away

Another one from my original ’80s playlist circa 2001.  A bit overplayed due to the Top Gun connection, but a stunning pop ballad.

Track 16: Freddie Mercury – The Great Pretender

Wonderfully cheesy over-the-top dramatic number.  I’d expect no less from Freddie Mercury.

Track 17: Ben E King – Stand By Me

Nice ’60s classic – back in the charts, I believe, due to the film of the same name.  Lovely singalong track.

Track 18: Curiosity Killed The Cat – Down To Earth

Nice slightly laid-back track.  It’s a bit ‘background’ for me, but I do like it.

Track 19: The Communards – So Cold The Night

A slightly more dramatic one from the Communards, with a great epic atmosphere.

Track 20: Steve ‘Silk’ Hurley – Jack Your Body

Like the tune, but the vocal sample is really irritating!

Track 21: Taffy – I Love My Radio (Midnight Radio)

Great synth line, great catchy vocals!  Will be adding this to the playlist.

Track 22: Nick Kamen – Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever

Lyrics a bit cheesy for my liking, though the tune is quite nice, and that sax solo is great.

Track 23: A-ha – Manhattan Skyline

Interestingly slow verses before it kicks in with a great upbeat chorus.  Nice epic atmosphere, great track from A-ha.

Track 24: Westworld – Sonic Boom Boy

Quite a fun wee track, good chant-along head-nodder.

Track 25: Bon Jovi – Livin’ On A Prayer

Hair metal headbanging time!  Most definitely a guilty pleasure.  This was a Cav classic circa 2001-2002 (i.e. played regularly at the Cavendish, a godawful cheap nightclub in Edinburgh that sold VK Apple alcopops for £1 each, resulting in a thousand hangovers during that era.  Ah, teen years.  The club still exists but, several name changes later, is now called Atik).

Track 26: Genesis – Land Of Confusion

Probably my favourite Genesis song – I love this one!  Bonus points also for the Spitting Image video.

Track 27: Europe – The Final Countdown

More headbanging, another guilty pleasure, and also, incidentally, another Cav classic (see above).  I can almost taste the VK Apple, which is not a good thing.

Track 28: Gary Moore – Over The Hills And Far Away

Love this folk-tinged bit of classic rock!  I’ve spent my adulthood in goth clubs hearing the Nightwish cover, but I prefer this original version.

Track 29: Ward Brothers – Cross That Bridge

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

Nice bit of upbeat pop, currently chair-dancing here.  Great synth in the instrumentals.

Track 30: Pretenders – Hymn To Her

Great lyrics, though the track is a bit slow for me.  Nice tune too.

Phone Box Thursday: Royal Mile, Edinburgh

We’re still on the Royal Mile, phone box fans – we’ll be here for a week or two yet.

Red phone boxes
Red phone boxes, Royal Mile, Edinburgh, 25th January 2016.

I really like this row of three.  It’s quite hard to catch a picture of them without tourists hanging off the doors in order to do the same thing during busy times (and you can see someone actually using the one on the left here!  Wonderful to see it being used!), but it was worth hanging around on this particular day, ’cause I think they’re very pretty all lined up like that.

Music Review: Now! That’s What I Call Music #8

Day 8’s Now! compilation was released on 24th November 1986.

November 1986
Um, I’m not sure I can really say that this is what the world looked like in November 1986, given that my face pretty much takes up this whole photo. It’s what I looked like in November 1986, though, and I bet you can’t get dungarees that cute nowadays.

Let’s move onto the music.

Now! That's What I Call Music #8
Track 1: Duran Duran – Notorious

Yup, I still love Duran Duran.  I also wish the Now! compilers would start putting their tracks later in the mix.  I appreciate the need to start with a great tune, but sometimes it’s nice to save the best for last!

The song is one of my favourites (and not just for that Sparkle Motion bit in Donnie Darko that everyone always brings up).  I love the ‘no-no-notorious’ hook, the way the verses build, the funk guitar – great track.

Track 2: Pet Shop Boys – Suburbia

Another great track from Pet Shop Boys – absolutely beautiful chorus and synth line.

Track 3: Aerosmith and Run DMC – Walk This Way

Bit overplayed these days, but still a classic, although I have to say I prefer the original version that Aerosmith did themselves.

Track 4: The Communards and Sarah Jane Morris – Don’t Leave Me This Way

A childhood favourite and one of the first pop songs I learnt to sing along to!  I guess when you’re a toddler it’s easier to hit those high notes.

I discovered while Richard Coles was competing on Strictly last year that he’s responsible for the longest piano solo of the ’80s, which occurs in the middle of this song.  Plus points!

Track 5: Swing Out Sister – Breakout

Nice and upbeat, but there’s something about the vocal that annoys me.

Track 6: Steve Winwood – Higher Love

Charming song, always liked this one.  Great instrumentals, and I love that singalong chorus.

Track 7: Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – (Forever) Live And Die

A bit slower than usual for OMD, but still a lovely tune.

Track 8: Genesis – In Too Deep

Nice epic instrumentals building throughout the song – really like this one.

Track 9: Cameo – Word Up

Another classic.  There have been a lot of pointless ’90s, ’00s and ’10s covers in an attempt to replicate the greatness of this song, but nothing has come close to the original.

Track 10: Grace Jones – I’m Not Perfect (But I’m Perfect For You)

I do like Grace Jones, and I really like the atmosphere of this track, especially during the verses.

Track 11: Mel & Kim – Showing Out (Get Fresh At The Weekend)

I’ve got a huge soft spot for Mel & Kim, and I really like this one, even though every time it pops up on Vintage TV Geth complains that they never show Respectable, which he apparently remembers as being a much bigger hit.

Track 12: Jermaine Stewart – We Don’t Have To Take Our Clothes Off

I love this one!  I never actually heard it until 2011, when it re-entered the charts after being featured in a Dairy Milk TV advert.  Great pop track.

Track 13: Jaki Graham – Step Right Up

Probably the best out of the Jaki Graham tracks that the Now! compilers have chosen recently.  Nice upbeat track with a catchy chorus.

Track 14: Janet Jackson – What Have You Done For Me Lately?

Quite a fun tune, but the lyrics annoy me.

Track 15: The Human League – Human

I really like this lovely, introspective track – a bit of a departure from the Human League’s earlier stuff, but really nice.

Track 16: Boris Gardiner – I Want To Wake Up With You

Bit cheesy for my liking, though I like the reggae beat.

Track 17: Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush – Don’t Give Up

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

Lovely duet, lovely tune.  Really like this one.

Track 18: The Housemartins – Think For A Minute

I don’t think the Housemartins did a bad tune, and this is gorgeous as usual.

Track 19: Madness – (Waiting For) The Ghost Train

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

Madness turn their hand to ‘spooky’.  Another one for the Hallowe’en playlist!

Track 20: Status Quo – In The Army Now

I really like the atmosphere of this one, and I’m not the biggest Status Quo fan.  Great track.

Track 21: Huey Lewis & The News – Stuck With You

A bit daft and cheesy, but it’s a nice head-nodder.

Track 22: Big Country – One Great Thing

This is a better Big Country track than has been included on Now! compilations so far.  Nice chant-along chorus.

Track 23: Billy Bragg – Greetings To The New Brunette

I like Billy Bragg’s stuff, though I wouldn’t necessarily add it to a typical ’80s party playlist.  It’s more for post-party listening circa 4am.  This one’s got a nice tune and awesome lyrics.

Track 24: Cutting Crew – (I Just) Died In Your Arms

A favourite from back during my first flush of ’80s nostalgia in the early ’00s – I played it over and over.  I was lucky enough to see Cutting Crew play back in November, and the crowd naturally went absolutely nuts for this one.  I think that was the point that Geth and I decided we were no longer going to be stuck in the upper gallery at the Sage, where the party is decidedly not happening.  Apart from anything else, you can’t take drinks into the upper levels!  This decision turned out to be a good one on Monday night, when we went to the Kim Wilde gig and enjoyed a much more high-energy atmosphere down on the floor.

Speaking of Kim Wilde…

Track 25: Kim Wilde – You Keep Me Hangin’ On

Is it another excuse to post the slightly blurry video I took of Kim Wilde performing this song on Monday night?  I think it is!

I like most stuff that Kim Wilde has done, but this is my absolute favourite track of hers.  Stunning cover of the ’60s classic that brings it storming into 1986 – amazing epic atmosphere.

Track 26: It Bites – Calling All The Heroes

Good pop track, though the messed up beat at the start annoys me a bit.  Great singalong chorus.

Track 27: Doctor & The Medics and Roy Wood – Waterloo

Utterly daft cover.  Sadly, I’m going to have to class it as a ‘pointless ’80s cover’, as it’s just not different enough from the Abba version.

Track 28: Debbie Harry – French Kissin’ In The USA

Okay song, but this has never come close to her Blondie classics for me.

Track 29: Robert Palmer – I Didn’t Mean To Turn You On

I really like Robert Palmer’s stuff, and this one is great – awesome instrumentals throughout.

Incidentally, it’s interesting in today’s climate to hear a song of this theme from a male singer.

Track 30: Paul Hardcastle – The Wizard

More interesting sampling from Paul Hardcastle.  Some great bits of tune on this track.

Track 31: Gwen Guthrie – (They Long To Be) Close To You

Nice gentle cover of the Carpenters track.  Not at all a pointless cover – it’s very different.

Track 32: Nick Berry – Every Loser Wins

Really dislike this one, sorry.  Cheesy ballad that I believe was released as an Eastenders tie-in.  Not a fan.

2018 Ciders #25: Old Mout Passionfruit and Apple

This one was a bit of an accidental cider.  Yes, I know.  My life’s just like that.

Basically, during the intermission at the Kim Wilde gig on Monday, Geth went to the bar to get us another round.  He asked for an Old Mout Kiwi and Lime (already logged), which is the variety I usually drink, but when he brought it back to me in the venue, I discovered that it was instead an Old Mout Passionfruit and Apple:

Old Mout Passionfruit and Apple
Old Mout Passionfruit and Apple.

Oh well, means another cider to log!

Passionfruit and Apple is similar to Kiwi and Lime in that it’s just the right sweetness for a fruit cider in my book – not cloying like Kopparberg or Rekorderlig, but sweet enough that I can down it if I have to.  The flavours are lovely together, and I’d drink this variety a lot more often if I didn’t like Kiwi and Lime so much!