The Candy Man


I’m sure you are, as indeed I am, thrilled to hear that Robbie Williams is back, where he belongs at Number One in what Jimmy and Fluff used to call the Hit Parade with his Noel Coward-esque ditty ‘Candy‘. If you haven’t heard it, you’re missing a treat. The lyrics are mind blowing:

Ring a ring of roses
Whoever gets the closest
She comes and she goes
As the war of the roses
Mother was a victim
Father beat the system
By moving bricks to Brixton
And learning how to fix them

You will notice how he brilliantly rhymes ‘Brixton’ with ‘fix them’, not to mention ‘roses’ with..er…’roses’. Apparently if you play the song backwards something amazing happens: It sounds exactly the same, or even makes a little more sense. You could plug John Lennon’s body into the national grid and with the revolutions he must be doing you could illuminate a small village on the Wirral for a fortnight.

It’s nothing new, of course, for someone like me, just out of his twenties, to attack the pop songs of the day. I remember when I was a kid defending Althea and Donna’s quite brilliant “Uptown Top Ranking” to howls of laughter and derision from my father. It seemed to me at the time (and my argument has not changed one jot) that “Love is all I bring inna me khaki suit and ting” was clearly a deep social comment on the dresses worn by young Jamaican women of the day, and it wasn’t my fault that my dad (from Slade Green, so he no excuse) couldn’t speak Patois. With the benefit of the Tardis I may have argued that if Robbie’s “Candy” had been written and sung in a foreign dialect it might have sounded better.

No, it’s not just that Robbie’s latest effort is as bad as his last one, it’s that I had subconsciously settled with myself that I’d never need to hear the dulcet tones of the Stoke-on-Trent warbler ever again. Like Mitt Romney, SmallPox and Rickets, I assumed he was part of my past, never likely to darken my door again, save Gaumont News Reels and editions of Top of the Pops 2. How wrong can you be? Not only has the tattooed twat taken his song to the top of the charts, but it looks like Mitt Romney may not be the Republican’s Michael Dukakis the whole world outside the US was hoping he was. (And I think I have Rickets. Or maybe it’s wind.)

Those who predicted that Good Ol’ Mitt the Multi Millionaire would crash and burn would have been the same ones who advised me not to bet on Sebastian Vettel making the podium in Abu Dhabi, having started the F1 Grand Prix from the back of the field. Or those who put their house on this Year’s US Ryder Cup Team, or Devon Locke. I was content in the fact that Robbie was gone from my life, and I would smile to myself about it often, as I put the finishing touches to my Lance Armstrong shrine in the study.

So the lesson for today, children, is never bet on a good thing, and never write off anyone. Just when you think you’ve heard the last of some useless cvnt he goes and gets himself a no1 single, or becomes President or something equally unlikely. And just because you’re riding high in those very same charts or on Le Tour de France, don’t think you’re there forever. You are just one shite performance on TV, or one raid by the USADA from being thrown out of your arse.

Althea and Donna became the victims of a rather unfortunate debut appearance on Top of the Pops. Having had the country bouncing and swaying to their wonderful sound, they chose to a) appear and; b) sing live on national tv. Bad move girls. It was very rare for a first showing on the pop show to actually do damage to an act’s chart position. Sadly, the girls gave a performance akin to an early Chuckle Brothers act. They were out of tune, out of rhythm and out of time with each other so spectacularly badly, you can see where The Smiths got their influences from. Still a great song though. And Ting.

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We’re Putting the Band Back Together


Some Bands Should Never Reform

Do you remember Madstock ? Were you there in Finsbury Park in 1992 when those Nutty Boys took north London by storm with their reunion concert? I was. Bloody marvellous it was too. Madness were supported by Ian Dury who went through the card with hit after hit after hit. The crowd went mad, and I had a little drinky in celebration of my luck.

Morissey, who was also on the card, nearly went through the back of the stage as the Madness fans at the front booed him off, aided and abetted by (mainly) plastic pint pots of lager which they threw at the singer before he made a tactical retreat and exited stage left. I could never work out why anyone would put Madness and Morrissey on the same bill. Perhaps the Smith mistook the skinheads who followed the Magnificent Seven to hold the same long-alleged racist views as he ? I suspect it took him about four seconds to realise draping yourself in the Union flag, and using neo-fascist imagary as a backdrop probably wasn’t the way to endear him to this crowd. He was lucky to get out alive. And we were lucky the set was cut short.

(Morrissey, in his defence, would say he was as racist as the next man. Especially if the next man was Eric Clapton.)

However, when Suggs and co finally took to the stage this drunken, sun-blushed crowd really went beserk. I’d like to report that the band had lost nothing of their lustre, their fun and their sharpness. The fact that I can’t is due to the fact I could here nothing whatsoever over the screaming of the fans around me. I’ve never been in a crowd which exploded in quite such a magnificent, if violent manner, as this news item from the time tells us:

According to the UK’s Health Protection Agency: “One of the most bizarre investigations conducted by British Geological Survey using its seismic network, was in connection with an earthquake reported to be felt strongly in North London in August 1992 when three blocks of flats (8-9-storeys) were evacuated following minor damage that included cracked windows and a cracked balcony. Our seismic network showed that there had not been an earthquake or an explosion, and we were able to deduce that the cause was resonance set up by dancers at a Madness rock concert in nearby Finsbury Park.

There’s something about reunion concerts. Led Zepplin‘s 2007 reunion bash was hailed as something akin to the Second Coming (though not in my house). When The Eagles took to the stage once more in 1994, they sold out huge venues all over the world (that tour is still going on I think). Elvis’s 1968 Comeback Special is rightly lauded as something of a TV milestone. A studio filled with transfixed teenagers, squeal with delight as The King sweats his way through set after set, with big dance numbers, a fantastic unplugged session, and a hit list to die for.

Francis Albert Sinatra, of course, liked a comeback or two.

However, not all comebacks are eagerly awaited, or even successful, come to that. I have reported on these pages (see Because William Shatner) that bands such as Duran Duran who want to relive their youth really should gen up on the words to their hits before going on the road again.

Every few months or so you see a news item that such-and-such are reforming. There are perennial rumours that The Jam are getting back together, and I hear a terrifying account that Mick Hucknall is to lead a re-constituted Faces, Ronnie Wood-and-all.

But among all these rumours and speculation, one piece of news is sure to warm the cockles of any true music fan. After what seems like months out of the picture, Chas and Dave are reforming! Yes, I know, great isn’t it? Anyone who witnessed C&D’s gig at The Blackheath Halls 18 months ago will know that it was like watching Jean Michel Jarre in a vest, such was its enormity. If songsters such as Bono and Jagger only took the time in between numbers to discuss with the audience the growing of beetroot and radishes in their allotment then perhaps their careers may well take off.

March next year sees the comeback gig at the O2, (ok Indigo at the O2), and I for one will be there (I’ll be the fat bloke standing next to Howard). People of south east London are advised to keep their animals indoors, give granny her pills and nail down any breakables: There’s an earthquake a-coming.