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  • Random Jottings (part three)

    22 Oct 2006, 20:49

    Today's jotting is very shamelessly lifted from my blog (a link for which is given in the "About Me" bit on this page). It is about a subject very close to my heart, the divine Kate Bush, or as the amazoniowan and I refer to her - "The Goddess". Those of you who may have strayed here from Heidi's blog, or her Last.fm page, will already know that the lovely Mrs Cullinan has recently developed a fascination with all things Kate. So, having spent the majority of today successfully putting off the customary Sunday tidy-up, and listening to Kate's most recent opus "Aerial", I thought I'd share mine and Kate's history with you, because in a year and four months, we'll have spent thirty years together. They've not all been happy years either, in fact for the first nine of them, I couldn't bear her. Allow me to take you back to 1978...

    I am six years old and watching the (now defunct) UK pop programme "Top of the Pops". It's family viewing in my house. My father watches it so that he can stare aghast at what is passing for 'contemporary fashion', allowing him to make observations like "Is that a man or a woman?", and his other favourite, "He's wearing make-up! A MAN wearing MAKE-UP!! DISGUSTING if you ask me!". It also provides him with plenty of opportunities to point out that "They don't make records like they used to", and if it's particularly tuneless, "I must dash out tomorrow and buy THIS one!". Still, I'm sure the scantily clad all-female dance troupe "Pans People" provide some solace from the cacophonous din. My mother watches it because she hopes someone like David Essex will be on it. Mum likes David Essex, even though she doesn't own any of his records. I watch it because I love music, and because I hope that the blonde woman from ABBA is going to appear, because she's the most captivatingly beautiful thing I have ever beheld in my entire life. My brother who is only three has already been despatched to bed, and I'll be packed off to mine after the programme has finished.

    There's a burst of dry ice on the screen and a piano tinkles, "Oooh, now this sounds pretty", says Mum from the sofa. We watch as the most terrifyingly scary looking woman I have ever seen, all long hair and mad eyes, dressed from head-to-toe in black, begins to sing the line "Out on the wiley, windy moors, we'd roll and fall in green...", and we all sit there in stunned silence, because we've never heard anything like it before. I am convinced that "Top of the Pops" have speeded up the scary woman's voice in the same way I can make Shirley Bassey sound like Pinky and Perky on helium by flicking the 33rpm switch to 45rpm on the record player. "Mummy? What's wrong with that scary lady's voice?", I ask. "Nothing, darling. That's how she sings. It's funny isn't it!". Except I don't think it's funny at all. The scary woman is doing strange hand movements and keeps opening her eyes really wide, singing a song about a ghost whilst she herself is dressed as a witch. I don't like it. I want the blonde woman from ABBA to come on and make everything all nice again...

    ...back to the present day then, and that was my introduction to Kate. You'll admit, it's not the best start to a relationship. I tried ignoring the scary woman after that, thinking that if I didn't see her, she'd just go away. She refused to play my game though, and she kept popping up on the television. There she was singing a song about a man that had a child in his eyes, and even though she'd swapped her witches costume for a colourful leotard and leg-warmers, the big hair, and the eyes that bored into the very depths of your soul remained.

    After that, she dipped in and out of my life in what was to become a pattern for the next few years. I thought it only natural that a woman who had clearly sold her soul to the devil, should record and release a song called "Hammer Horror". I'd never seen a Hammer horror film, but I knew they were supposed to be VERY scary. I thought the scary woman probably acted in them, and all her songs were probably taken from them. After all, she had a look of vampire/witch about her. Next time our paths crossed she was waving her arms about madly and screeching "Wow" (a lot!!). I remember her patting her bum and singing something about vaseline, which caused my mother to "tut" very loudly from the sofa, and my father to have a small seizure. The scary lady had done something rude, but I wasn't sure what. After that, she did little to persuade me that she wasn't a servant of Beelzebub. She sang of a Russian witch, nuclear war and dead soldiers, whilst I dreamed of being Olivia Newton-John so that I too could kiss John Travolta, blissfully unaware of just what THAT meant for my future.

    The scary lady was not to be defeated though. She was clever. She infiltrated my house, using my father as her means of entry. Unbeknownst to me, the scary lady had tried to convince other people that she really wasn't a terrifying banshee unleashed from the pits of Hell, by recording a Christmas song. It was called "December Will Be Magic Again", and it cropped up on a compilation album that my father purchased in a cheery festive mood. I remember that one moment the house was filled with festive joy and seasonal goodwill, and in the next my entire world was turned upside down as the scary lady's voice came out of the speakers next to my dad's stereo. I went to bed that Christmas Eve and had the most dreadful nightmares of the scary lady descending down the chimney into my bedroom, dancing round my room like the demented whirligig she was, before slitting my throat, and then (quite possibly) stealing all my unopened Christmas presents.

    Then, it all went quiet. The scary lady seemed to disappear. I did catch one brief glimpse of her about a year after the Christmas nightmare. I wandered into the sitting room, and there she was on television, rollerskating towards the camera, wearing a white pointed hat, as a minotaur danced in the background. I quickly retreated from the room, and swiftly scampered upstairs and immersed myself in an action packed battle with my Star Wars figures.

    The next time I'd see her, things would be very different indeed...and that's a random jotting for a different day.
  • Random Jottings (part two)

    11 Oct 2006, 21:22

    Today has been an horrendous day. Initially it just started off bad. Bad in a, "bad hair day" kinda way. Now I'm rather prone to these since about six weeks ago when in a temporary fit of insanity I asked my hair stylist to, "do something a bit different and funky". The only explanation for the haircut she then duly gave me was that she misheard my request as, "do something a bit different and funny". Most of the time it's controllable, indeed most of the time it doesn't look too bad, but there's usually a day a week when it refuses to behave or do as it's styled. If that day happens to be a work day, I'll slap on a baseball cap and leave it there all day.

    I know what you're thinking, and yes, it raised a few eyebrows at first, but I think that was the full-suit, shirt, tie & baseball cap combo. Even turning the cap round to face the right way didn't help. I quickly learnt to combine the cap with a much more dressed down look in the office, usually involving one of those t-shirts that looks like you're wearing about seven layers of different tops, and a pair of faded old jeans with holes at the knees. A pair of skanky trainers also helps a lot. The only downside with trying to carry off this look at work is that important people in your building tell you that one of the urinals in the gents loo on the fifth floor needs unblocking, or the hand-dryer in the ladies on the seventh has packed in again, and then stare at you incredulously when you tell them you're actually the Briefing & Communications Manager for a senior policy group in the same building.

    So where was I? Oh yeah, my bad hair day! Now, as I was saying, this wouldn't have been much of a crisis normally, but Nemesis had obviously licked her lips, smiled to herself and said "That's what you think!" I was only going into work for half the day as I was still recovering from the bug that had laid me low and kept me off work yesterday. Why go in at all? Yeah, I know, but I had a really urgent piece of work that was relatively straightforward and was due in by 1pm. I wanted to get in as early as possible and leave as early as possible. Then the bad hair tantrum happened and I lost valuable time scouring the house from top-to-bottom looking for a baseball cap to cover the hideous mess. I realised in growing horror that I'd left the last one I own at Billy's house on Monday. I toyed with idea of turning an old sarong into a bandana, then realising how ridiculous that would look, I began looking for a nice old colourful pillow case, which lost me even more time, especially when having found one I'd misplaced the scissors.

    I tried applying some fancy schmancy L'Oreal hair product to the frightwig, which was supposed to give it a trendy just-got-out-of-bed funky messed-up edge, but was so bloody cloying and greasy that after two attempts at recreating the tousled look of the chiselled male Calvin Klein model on the packaging, I looked like somebody had dipped my head into a deep-fat fryer. I conceded defeat and forced myself to leave the house and head to work. Once on the tube by keeping my earphones on and listening to Girls Aloud, whilst also avidly reading my book, I managed to avoid the comments and the looks about the deep fat fried birds nest perched on top of my head.

    Having survived the train journey, I emerged from the tube station and was halfway to the office, when some torrential rainstorm having clearly lost its' way to Africa, decided Westminster was as good a place as any and let rip, whilst I vainly searched in my bag for the umbrella I'd actually left on my desk as my clothes turned see-through. When I arrived at the office (looking as though I'd decided that a fully clothed swim from Greenwich to Westminster was a bracing way to commute in) nobody said anything. Infact for the rest of the day people were so valiantly trying to avoid looking at the hair, they ended up having entire conversations with it - which I've done myself with people who have big hairy moles on their chin - so I guess I can't really complain.

    It soon became apparent that the so-called straightforward piece of work I'd gone in to do was actually nothing of the sort. It was incredibly complex, and the people I needed to speak to about it were either on whole-day training events where mobile phones ceased to function, or in meetings that clearly helped define the concept of "never-ending". If they weren't at either of those, they'd either "just popped out!", (Ewww...and in the office too!) or they were at the mercy of imbecile secretaries, "Ooooh...now let me see...what are her movements? What day is it today? Wednesday! Is it really? Hasn't this week flown? I could have sworn it was Tuesday! *high pitched giggle* What was it you wanted to know?"

    It got done in the end. The end being about five o'clock this evening, by which time I had used every last ounce of charm to gain extensions to my deadline. I'd forgotten about the hair, and then the phone rang. It was my ex. He was worried about me as he'd tried my mobile and it was constantly engaged (due apparently to some fault the company are looking into). We split two years ago and it wasn't what you'd call "in the best of circumstances". Anyway, that stuff's all boring (like the rest of this hasn't been!). He rang to tell me that he got himself a brand new job, earning lots more money, and will be able to clear his debt, and most importantly meet loads of new people, and it was at that point I really did want to cry because it just highlighted the different directions our lives have taken in those two years. His life is going well...and...I'm as jealous as all hell because mine isn't, and a "bad hair day" is really the least of my problems.

    And the real point of this journal? I dunno. I was walking home from the tube station this evening having been listening to Madonna's "Confessions on a Dancefloor album on the tube journey home in an attempt to lift my spirits. I hadn't walked far when the track Forbidden Love started. It was like listening to it for the first time, instead of something like the two hundredth, and it played on my mood and upset me further. It wasn't the lyrics really, because any feelings for my ex disappeared well over two years ago. It was this overwhelming sadness I hadn't heard in the song before.

    So if you got this far with this rubbish journal entry, then suggest me something cheerful to listen to below. And THAT I guess is the point.
  • A Janet Jackson Countdown

    8 Jun 2006, 20:56

    25. What Have You Done For Me Lately
    Where You'll Find It: Control (April 1986)

    The one that kick started it all and the one that first brought Janet to my attention. Absolutely loved it at the time, but it grates a tiny bit now thanks to overplay. A naff-awful video that looks like an out-take from "Fame" lets the side down, but the fabulous golden shirt and huge shoulder pads almost redeem it.


    24. Black Cat
    Where You'll Find It: Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814 (September 1989)

    Aaah…a truly classic Janet single. Despite being the sixth single from "Rhythm Nation", it achieved the best singles chart placing of all the singles lifted from it, when it reached number 15 in September 1990. Like the majority of Janet's UK singles at this time, it deserved a much higher chart position. It made pole position in the States, her fourth US chart topper. It's one of the few tracks Janet has performed in it's entirety on all her world tours to date. The first single to do away with the sweet girly high-pitched (and dare I say "weak") vocals we were used to, and all the better for it in my opinion.


    23. Again
    Where You'll Find It: janet. (May 1993)

    Not many ballads in my countdown and this is probably Janet's best known. The second top ten single from "janet." in the UK and the second Hot 100 number one from the album. Heavily featured in her film debut "Poetic Justice", Janet was nominated for an Academy Award for "Best Achievement In Music – Original Song" for this weepy ballad. A standard feature of her live shows, it's marred only by her insistence on breaking down into tears every bloody time she sings it – I mean...come on...it's not that bad!!.


    22. The Best Things In Life Are Free
    Where You'll Find It: Design Of A Decade 1986-1996 (October 1995)

    The only "duet" to make my top 25 and undoubtedly Janet's best-known, including her collaboration with Michael Jackson. This is a classic floor filler. Taken from the film "Mo' Money", this nicely bridged the gap between the "Rhythm Nation" and "janet." albums. Hard to believe, but Janet out sings the late Luther Vandross and this track pisses all over his later collaboration with Mariah Carey on "Endless Love". Trivial fact: this track gave Luther his first UK top ten hit. It also gave him his third when a remixed version went top ten three years later.


    21. Go Deep
    Where You'll Find It: The Velvet Rope (October 1997)

    I don’t care what anybody says, I love this track!! It's my ultimate "getting ready to go out" track, and it never fails to have me dancing round the house as I am getting ready to go out. It's so simplistic, and even at the time it was released it sounded like retro Janet, so it makes it quite difficult to describe – eighties with a nineties sheen probably comes closest. It's a real feel-good get up and dance number, let down by what is quite possibly the worst Janet video ever – I mean someone drown that kid in his own pool for Christ's sake!!


    20. I Want You
    Where You'll Find It: Damita Jo (April 2004)

    For me, this is track is one of the undisputed highlights of the "Damita Jo" album. This gorgeous swirling number sounds like something that could quite easily have been on the "janet." album, and that’s no bad thing. Deserving of a single release in its own right, instead it was double listed with "All Nite (Don’t Stop)", and if there were any justice both would have been huge hits, instead people had lost interest and the album was dead in the water. A real pity.


    19. Love Will Never Do (Without You)
    Where You'll Find It: Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814 (September 1989)

    The first thing I think of whenever I hear this song, is the Herb Ritts video. I was so used to seeing a voluptuous Janet - clad mostly in black and totally covered up - and taken in that context, this was a shocking video. This was the video that premiered that cleavage and midriff. I don’t think Janet has ever been as sexy as she was in this particular video, and in hindsight it gives a glimpse of the direction that was to follow with the "janet." album. To this day the song remains secondary to the video. The seventh single from "Rhythm Nation", it barely scraped into the UK top 40 but went to the top of the charts in the US. I think the only reason this song is in the lower reaches of the top 20 is because by the time it was released I'd played the album to death and was getting slightly bored with this particular track.


    18. Rhythm Nation
    Where You'll Find It: Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814 (September 1989)

    The title track to the follow up album to "Control", this funky dance number sees Janet taking the role of leader, and not just in the stunning video, but also in the socially conscious messages conveyed in the song itself. It's almost a call to arms, a message reinforced by the military style uniforms and dance routines of the video. The single didn’t make the UK top 20. A travesty!


    17. What About
    Where You'll Find It: The Velvet Rope (October 1997)

    Probably the angriest track Janet has ever recorded and un-arguably one of the best from "The Velvet Rope" album. It alternates between lush balladic groove and angry rock, sounding like two different songs spliced together, and to outstanding effect. I can quite honestly say that this was the first Janet Jackson track that genuinely shocked me. After all the harmless girly fluff that had gone before, to hear her singing "what about the times you said you didn’t fuck her, she only gave you head", caused me to reach for the lyric booklet and double check what I thought I'd just heard. Another excellent example of Janet's rockier vocals and another Michael sounding performance from the lady.


    16. Come Back To Me
    Where You'll Find It: Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814 (September 1989)

    The highest placed traditional Janet ballad, and at the time, my favourite track from "Rhythm Nation". It’s a song you can relate to when you've loved someone and they're not a part of your life anymore. A gorgeous sweeping track with lush strings and set off to great advantage by the romantic video shot in Paris. This song features some of Janet's best ever vocals and harmonies. A ballad in the Whitney Houston/Mariah Carey/Celine Dion sense it's not, but it's all the better for that.


    15. R&B Junkie
    Where You'll Find It: Damita Jo (April 2004)

    There were rumours that this track was going to be the third single to be lifted from "Damita Jo". Unfortunately, the album had stiffed and the record company was obviously reluctant to throw more money at it. More is the pity because this track is something of an understated classic. Sounding like a throwback to the "Control" era but with a more polished naughties edge, this forms the middle part of a trilogy of highlights on "Damita Jo", sandwiched between "All Nite (Don’t Stop)" and "I Want You". Curse the record company!


    14. Velvet Rope
    Where You'll Find It: The Velvet Rope (October 1997)

    On the very first listen this track blew me away. I'd bought the album on the day it came out, and had invited friends over for dinner and a first listening party. I had to sit on my hands to stop myself having a sneak preview through the album before they arrived – I had orders to leave the plastic wrapping on it just to prove to them I hadn't played it. As soon as they arrived, we settled down with drinks and stuck the CD on. I remember us all sitting there absolutely speechless as this one played. Cleverly sampling Mike Oldfield's classic "Tubular Bells" and featuring Vanessa-Mae on violin, this is the kind of stuff Janet should be releasing now.


    13. All For You
    Where You'll Find It: All For You (April 2001)

    What did she just sing? "Gotta nice package alright, guess I'm gonna have to ride it tonight"? I thought my ears had deceived me when I first heard this. I'd be out with friends at various bars and if we'd spot some good-looking guy, we'd quote those lines and giggle like Janet herself. The novelty of doing that wore off VERY quickly, but I never got tired of the song itself. The first proper new single from the album of the same name and based on a sample of Change's "Glow Of Love", this was EVERYWHERE in April, May & June 2001. Backed by a video that was almost a return to the Janet videos of the "Control" era, I had high hopes that this would give Ms Jackson her first UK number one single. Sadly, it was not to be, although if my memory serves me well, it topped the Airplay chart and was a European number one. My favourite single of 2001, I couldn't wait to hear the parent album...but perhaps best not to dwell on that one!


    12. Miss You Much
    Where You'll Find It: Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814 (September 1989)

    The lead-off single from the "Rhythm Nation" album, and another Janet classic. Yet another memorable video lifted from the short film, particularly the chair sequence at the end, where Janet's dancing is better than ever. Disappointing that the single failed to crack the UK top 20, but it made number one in the States. This was my second most-played track of 1989 – Madonna just swung it with "Like A Prayer" – and my parents still hate this one to this day.


    11. Someone To Call My Lover
    Where You'll Find It: All For You (April 2001)

    Quite possibly the most Summery Janet song ever!! Based on America's "Ventura Highway", this was always THE most obvious single on "All For You". One to relate to when you’ve been dumped and are over the grieving period (and Lord knows I've been there!!), this track is already classic Janet. Catchier than crabs, it deserved to be a much bigger hit and only very narrowly missed out on a place in my top ten. However that said, the version featuring Jermaine Dupri will make your ears bleed and should be made illegal.


    10. Got ‘Til It’s Gone
    Where You'll Find It: The Velvet Rope (October 1997)

    To say that I hated this when I first heard it is an understatement. I hadn't heard it before I bought it on the day it was released. I rushed home filled with the highest expectations, started to play the CD single and found myself skipping through it – something I'd never done before with a brand new Janet release. I couldn't believe that this was the lead-off single for the new album and I dreaded to think what the album was going to bring if this was deemed a worthy first single. It took quite a while for this one to work its way into my affections, but once it did take hold, there was no shifting it. An absolute Janet classic. The whole Joni Mitchell and Q-Tip thing works really well. It's laid back, totally under-rated, and was deserving of a much higher UK chart position than number 6.


    09. Nasty
    Where You'll Find It: Control (April 1986)

    Aaah...the track that featured the immortal lines "No, my first name ain't baby, it's Janet, Miss Jackson if you're nasty!". No idea what she's talking about, but it's easily one of Janet's more memorable moments. The second single lifted from the "Control" album and it was the one that persuaded me to buy it. Promoted via a cheesy video, that featured an obvious stand-in (probably Paula Abdul) back-flipping through a movie screen, and quite possibly the campest bunch of street hoodlums ever (trust me, you'd be in more danger of a make-over than a mugging!). Yet another example of a Janet single that should have peaked much higher than it did in the UK.


    08. Can’t Be Stopped
    Where You'll Find It: The Velvet Rope (October 1997)

    The bonus track on "The Velvet Rope" album, and I had high hopes that this one (like "Whoops Now" from the "janet." album) would be released as a single. Sadly it never did see a commercial release, which is a real pity as it’s one of the most outstanding songs from the album. A gloriously fitting end to an excellent album, it's extremely rare for me not to hit the "repeat" button on my CD player whenever I play this. It's a prime example illustrating that when the Jackson, Jam & Lewis formula works - it works REALLY well. A definite 10 out of 10 and a big thumbs up for this one.


    07. Together Again
    Where You'll Find It: The Velvet Rope (October 1997)

    This is probably going to go down in history as Janet's most successful song. Whilst that may be the case, it's not her best – not in my countdown anyway – but it certainly is one of them. Over-played to within an inch of its life, this still remains a catchy and poignant number. Written for the friends she'd lost to AIDS. Clearly a subject that she feels strongly about as all her CD releases since 1993 have carried a red AIDS awareness ribbon. Thankfully, Janet didn't take the Madonna route and pay "tribute" to Madge’s depressing dirge "In This Life" (also inspired by friends lost to the disease). Instead Janet struck a positive note and it paid off. This track is her most successful, and her best selling single in the UK. Even though it only peaked at number four, it has easily outsold a 4-week UK number one by Mariah Carey. Proof that chart positions really aren't everything. Also recorded as a ballad and featuring two distinctly different videos, this one will be associated with Janet forever.


    06. All Nite (Don’t Stop)
    Where You'll Find It: Damita Jo (April 2004)

    If there were any justice in the world, this glorious funky dance number would have been the lead-off single from "Damita Jo", instead of the vile "Just A Little While". Ultimately it's unlikely that it would have reversed the fortunes of the parent album, but it would have certainly drummed up more initial interest in it. A classic Janet floor-filler, it truly deserved a much higher UK chart position and it's appalling that this track stiffed completely in the US. If any Janet track deserved to flop, it certainly wasn’t this one.


    05. Throb
    Where You'll Find It: janet. (May 1993)

    Taken from the "janet." album, and featuring slightly risqué lyrics such as "I can feel your body, pressed against my body, wrap yourself around me, love to feel you throbbin’". In fact this wasn’t dealing with sex but dancing – "DJ make me wet", a theme that would also be explored by Madonna ("Music"), Jennifer Lopez ("Play"), and erm...H & Claire ("DJ"). Speaking of Madonna, I have to say that "Throb" does sound very much like...erm...a *ahem* "tribute" to Madge’s "Vogue". Never commercially released as a single in its own right, remixes of the track did crop up on the "Any Time, Any Place" single and also the album "janet-remixed".


    04. Escapade
    Where You'll Find It: Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814 (September 1989)

    Apparently Janet had wanted to record a cover version of the classic Martha Reeves and The Vandellas hit, "Nowhere To Run" for the "Rhythm Nation" album. Jam & Lewis suggested that they let the spirit of the song be their inspiration for a new track, and this was the result. Sounding more Prince-esque than Motown, this upbeat feel-good number gave Janet her third US number one, but only scraped into the lower reaches of the UK top 20. The video saw Janet and her team of dancers dancing their way through carnival filled streets; not a bad video but such a strong song warranted something better.


    03. The Pleasure Principle
    Where You'll Find It: Control (April 1986)

    Vastly under-rated in my opinion. The sixth single to be lifted from "Control" and one of only two tracks on the album not to be written by Jam, Lewis & Janet, plus the only track not to be produced by Jam & Lewis. The accompanying video was the first to solely feature Janet without her (by this time) usual trademark back-up dancers. It also marked a change of image for Janet. Gone were the outsized shoulder-padded jackets and big hair, and instead Janet had a sleeker casual look. In breaking that mould it remains one of her more memorable videos and the fantastic dance routine was rightly rewarded with an MTV "Best Choreography" video award. The song was remixed for commercial release by Shep Pettibone, who would later go on to collaborate with Madonna, most notably on "Vogue" and the "Erotica" album. His 12" remix of this track remains one of my favourite Janet remixes.


    02. That's The way Love Goes
    Where You’ll Find It: janet. (May 1993)

    A laid back album opener and lead-off single for the "janet." album. This classic track debuted at number two in the UK and was only held off taking the top spot by George Michael & Queen's "Five Live EP". A real pity because this song SHOULD have been her first UK number one. Deliberately chosen as an under-stated introduction to the parent album, this remains one of Janet's most instantly recognisable tracks and one of the sexiest songs of all-time. If Janet, Jam & Lewis were still turning out material of this calibre then I wouldn't advocate Janet ditching them, sadly that's not the case. Keep an eye out for a heavy set J-Lo totally over-acting (someone pass the ham!) as one of Janet's dancer "friends" in the video.


    01. If
    Where You'll Find It: janet. (May 1993)

    The second single from the "janet." album, and yet another example of a Janet track that deserved a much higher chart position in the UK than the one it actually achieved (No.14). It's also a track that requires the album sleeve lyrics when you listen to it, as the majority of the verses are almost indecipherable. This is perhaps the first Janet song to overtly deal with sex, featuring lyrics like "You on the rise as you’re touching my thighs" and "Your smooth and shiny feels so good against my lips sugar", but unlike the soft porn tracks on the "All For You" album, this one works. The track was promoted by a stunning video set in a secret "members only" Japanese club. Available in two versions, the first showcased Janet & her dancers' superb dance routine, whilst the second interspersed the dance routine with shots of a male Janet admirer and members of the club. The video deservedly won Janet the 'Best Female Video' MTV Video Award, and is my all-time favourite Janet video. Special mention must be given to the Brothers In Rhythm "Swing Yo Pants Mix", just because it’s truly fabulous.
  • A Saint Etienne Countdown

    26 Mar 2006, 14:25

    Just thought I'd kill some time and countdown my top 25 favourite Saint Etienne tracks. This list is always subject to change and depends on my day-to-day mood. Today it looks like this:

    25. Find Me A Boy
    Where You’ll Find It: The Misadventures of Saint Etienne (October 1999)

    A cover version of French songstress Francoise Hardy’s "Tous les Garcons et les Filles", which she released in 1962. The Saints version has a rather winsome opening before easing into a laid back melodic groove. Lyrically the track deals with loneliness and a longing to be in love, something we can all relate to from time-to-time. A gorgeous chill-out track.


    24. Lightning Strikes Twice
    Where You’ll Find It: Tales From Turnpike House (June 2005)

    Co-produced by the Saints and Xenomania (the production team behind Girls Aloud), this is an upbeat little number with a dark edge to it. Lyrically it tells the tale of a girl who wants to rekindle a failed relationship by turning to old superstitions, and even magic, to win her bloke back. The relationship is obviously the most important she’s ever had and she desperately wants it again. There’s something almost touching about the way Sarah sings, "Everyone should have a reason to believe, so I still believe that lightning could strike twice for me". One of many highlights on an outstanding album, this could have easily been a single.

    23. Join Our Club
    Where You’ll Find It: You Need A Mess Of Help To Stand Alone (October 1993)

    Released back in May 1992, this track was coupled with "People Get Real" to make a double A side and gave the Saints their biggest chart success at that time. It’s a shimmery piece of early 90’s dance music and features the immortal lines, "Slip on your pink fur coat, bring your rude pictures, put on your teenage head – this is a love thing!" The track also crops up on their official compilation albums "Too Young To Die" and "Smash The System".


    22. Everything I Touch Turns To Gold
    Where You’ll Find It: I Love To Paint (December 1994)

    Kicking off with a sample from the Audrey Hepburn film "Roman Holiday", this disco diva-esque track is actually a demo track written for none other than Naomi Campbell back when she was attempting to kick-start her pop career. Described by the band as "our favourite drag queen", Naomi went elsewhere for her debut and I can only imagine what this would sound like as a proper studio-produced track by her, or infinitely more preferable, the Saints themselves.


    21. Lose That Girl
    Where You’ll Find It: Good Humor (May 1998)

    One of the stand-out tracks on the Cardigan-esque "Good Humor", it’s still a little bit too much of a Cardigans tribute track but everything about it is infectious. It was apparently scheduled for a single release and was remixed by The Trouser Enthusiasts, but this was later withdrawn. Personally I think that a song about a girl who think she looks good wearing purple jeans from Sante Fe and turns the disco down could have been a biggie, but hey ho. The extended Trouser Enthusiasts remix can be found as a bonus track on 2001’s "Interlude".


    20. How We Used To Live
    Where You’ll Find It: Sound Of Water (June 2000)

    Clocking in at 8 minutes and 50 seconds, this is nothing short of epic. After the lukewarm reception given to "Good Humor", this was seen as a return to form for the group. The song itself is split into three parts, a lush balladic groove that builds into an electronica number reminiscent of Erasure, before reverting to a slinky laid back refrain. This was the lead-off single for the album, but chart rules rendered it ineligible for a chart position as the CD single featured too many mixes and an overlong running time. Paul Van Dyk - the collaborator on their biggest UK hit single "Tell Me Why (The Riddle)" - also did a remix of this track which can be found on the "Boy Is Crying" CD single.


    19. A Good Thing
    Where You’ll Find It: Tales From Turnpike House (June 2005)

    The second and final UK single to be lifted from the "Tales From Turnpike House" album. This is almost Saint Etienne-by-numbers, but it’s still glorious. This really should have been the lead-off single from the album as it’s an obvious stand-out track, but the group and label opted for the gorgeous (but uncommercial) "Side Streets" instead. Pretty much a step in the same direction as "He’s On The Phone", so if you like that particular track then you’ll love this one too. Unfortunately, due to a mistake made by the record label, all formats of the single were limited to just 1,000 copies, and as a result the song only just scraped into the lower reaches of the UK singles chart.


    18. The Bad Photographer
    Where You’ll Find It: Good Humor (May 1998)

    The second single from the album and their first to gain airplay on the then largely conservative Radio 2. Continuing the live band sound running through the parent album, this a bouncy and infectious 4 minute slab of pop music. Perhaps it’s just me, but I swear Janet Jackson nicked the melody of the background "all for you" vocals for her own "All For You".


    17. Stars Above Us
    Where You’ll Find It: Tales From Turnpike House (June 2005)

    For some reason this track didn’t initially grab me. Initially it just struck me as Saint Etienne doing upbeat Europop-by-numbers. It was all very pleasant, but I’d heard it all before. Then about three months ago, something just clicked and the track lodged itself firmly in my head and refused to leave. It’s a joyous life-affirming little number, and is the second Saint Etienne/Xenomania production on the "Tales From Turnpike House" album. Slated for a US release, the track recently peaked at number ten on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart.


    16. Pale Movie
    Where You’ll Find It: Tiger Bay (March 1994)

    The first single to be released from their second top ten album, this has more "la la la’s" than Kylie Minogue’s "Can’t Get You Out Of My Head". Described by the band as "Spanish folk", this beeping flamenco-esque musical masterpiece manages to name check Demi Moore amid gorgeous swirling strings. It made the UK top 30 in February 1994. Steps totally ripped this track off in their "Summer Of Love" single. Bastards.


    15. Tomorrow Never Dies
    Where You’ll Find It: Built On Sand (December 1999)

    Etienne do Bond? Yep, that’s right. Legend has it that a more contemporary, "trendy" and preferably British act was sought to sing the theme tune to the 1997 Bond flick. So alongside offerings from Pulp and Space, the Saints submitted this rather glorious track. In the end, with one eye on the international market the producers opted for Sheryl Crow. Classic Bond a la Shirley Bassey this is not, but the origins of the track are unmistakable with lines such as, "Using words to hypnotise, Taking cities as his prize, Tomorrow never dies." Pierce Brosnan walked off with the master tape of this claiming, "It’s seven times better than Sheryl Crow".


    14. Only Love Can Break Your Heart
    Where You’ll Find It: Foxbase Alpha (October 1991)

    This failed to set the charts alight on it’s initial release in 1990, but fared better on it’s re-release in 1991, giving the group their first Top 40 hit when it modestly peaked at number 39. The track is actually a cover version of a Neil Young song and eagle eared listeners will notice that the lead vocalist is not Sarah Cracknell, but one time front woman of Faith Over Reason – Moira Lambert. Initially the plan had been to have a different vocalist on each release, but Bob & Pete fell in love with Sarah and the rest is history. This seminal cover now crops up on countless chill-out compilations.


    13. Sylvie
    Where You’ll Find It: Good Humor (May 1998)

    The lead-off single from the "Good Humor" album, this pop gem debuted at number 12 in February 1998. This tale of a boyfriend stealing younger sister kicked off with a tinkly piano and mad bongos before revealing itself as a bouncy floor-filler. The track was remixed into a Euro-dance number by The Trouser Enthusiasts.


    12. He’s On The Phone
    Where You’ll Find It: Too Young To Die – The Singles (November 1995)

    The fruit of the union between French superstar Etienne Daho and the Saints, this "wave your hands in the air" slice of Euro-disco was co-produced with Steve Rodway, who would later go on to "do" Gina G’s "Ooh Aah…Just A Little Bit". Likened by some to sounding like the Pet Shop Boys, this gave the Saints their biggest chart success to date when it peaked at number 11 in 1995. A perennial favourite at gay clubs ever since, it is probably their most instantly recognisable track and was used to promote their first greatest hits compilation.


    11. Action
    Where You’ll Find It: Finisterre (October 2002)

    Why this single never made the top 40 is a true travesty. If there were any justice in the world of pop this should have at least gone top 10. The lead off single for the group’s 2002 follow up to the "Sound Of Water", this is just glorious pop music at its best and classic Saint Etienne. The track was co-written with Brian Higgins of Xenomania.


    10. Hug My Soul
    Where You’ll Find It: Tiger Bay (March 1994)

    Very loosely based on Andrea True Connection’s "More, More, More", this track was the second top 40 single from "Tiger Bay". In all the years that I’ve been attempting to promote the Saints to the uninitiated, this track has been responsible for quite a few of my converts. It came backed with a host of remixes – all of which are fabulous. It is quite simply an uplifting and infectious ode to being in love and a piece of pure pop.


    09. You’re In A Bad Way
    Where You’ll Find It: So Tough (March 1993)

    Take my advice, if you ever have a friend who is going through a rough patch - for whatever reason – lend them this track. It’s a friendship reinforcing number and it’s a real feel-good piece of music that cannot fail to lift the spirits. Trust me, they will LOVE you! It was the second single to be lifted from the "So Tough" album and almost gave the group their first top ten single, but peaked at number 12. It’s a 60’s pastiche with a nineties sheen and Sarah’s vocals are sweet and pure throughout. Besides, any song that manages to include a reference to Bruce Forsythe and "The Generation Game" and still sounds this good deserves full marks.


    08. Shower Scene
    Where You’ll Find It: Finisterre (October 2002)

    Only two singles were released from the group’s 2002 opus "Finisterre", and bizarrely this wasn’t one of them. Probably THE most immediate track on the album, fans mourned its lack of a proper release and like the previously mentioned "Hug My Soul", it is responsible for a large amount of converts I’ve made to the group. Normally this would be a lot higher, but it has suffered from overplay for about three years now (yes, it’s really THAT good!). I have no idea what Sarah is singing about, but when the song is this good, I don’t care!


    07. Stormtrooper In Drag
    Where You’ll Find It: Continental (May 1997)

    Words are beginning to fail me. There are only so many adjectives that you can use in praise of something truly worthy of it. The thing about Saint Etienne is that some of their stuff can take a while to make an impact, whereas some of it is very immediate. This is another of their "immediate" moments and could quite easily have been slotted in on the "Tiger Bay" album (a good thing!). It’s a disco-tinged stomping cover of a Gary Numan track that could quite easily have been recorded by Kylie.


    06. Nothing Can Stop Us
    Where You’ll Find It: Foxbase Alpha (October 1991)

    The first Saint Etienne single to reach the UK singles chart and the first to be written by the band following the two cover versions of "Only Love Can Break Your Heart" and "Kiss And Make Up". More notably, this track also marked the debut of Sarah Cracknell on lead vocals. Although it has subsequently become one of their most well known and popular recordings, it failed to crack the top 50. Such is its greatness that Kylie covered it. Although her cover wasn’t a bad attempt, it isn’t a patch on the original.


    05. Avenue
    Where You’ll Find It: So Tough (February 1993)

    The first single to be lifted from their second album and it may just possibly be the reason why the band has been tagged as being too smarmy and clever for their own good. This is not a three and a half minute piece of pop confectionary; instead it’s a sweeping majestic epic of over seven and a half minutes. Its lack of pop commercialism resulted in the track managing a peak chart position of 40, but it has gone on to become a staple favourite of Etienne fans. Featuring the immortal lines "Oh, how many years, is it now Maurice?". Who is Maurice? Fuck knows, but the "Oh, the clown’s no good" at the end of the song refers to no less a personage than Ronald McDonald.


    04. Hobart Paving
    Where You’ll Find It: So Tough (February 1993)

    This song makes me cry. It’s just so hauntingly beautiful and sad. Sarah Cracknell is no power-house diva but she uses her voice on this to blistering effect, her honeydew vocals just adding to the poignancy. I’ve seen them do this song live several times, and it never fails to make the hairs on the back of my neck stand upright. Apparently they’re always asked to perform this at their friend’s weddings, which seems a bit masochistic given that people are supposed to cry at weddings anyway – talk about rubbing it in. This was the third single from "So Tough" and was a double A side with "Who Do You Think You Are". It deserved a FAR higher chart position than number 23.


    03. Who Do You Think You Are
    Where You’ll Find It: You Need A Mess Of Help To Stand Alone (October 1993)

    Talk of the devil!! This cover of Candlewick Green’s only single was (as just mentioned) a listed double A side with "Hobart Paving". The original version reached number 21 back in 1974. Described by the Saints as "a genius song by a horrible cabaret group who won Opportunity Knocks about ten times in a row", this is the one that will get your Saint Etienne fan up on their feet and dancing (if they’re drunk enough of course!). Candlewick Green were so impressed with the treatment the Saints gave to their only hit, that they sent them huge bunches of flowers – it still didn’t endear them to the Etienne. A definite crowd pleaser, no live set of the group’s is complete unless it includes this one. Almost worth investing in a pink feather boa and facing the resulting ridicule for waving it over your head in gay abandon.


    02. Heart Failed (In The Back Of A Taxi)
    Where You’ll Find It: Sound Of Water (June 2000)

    I don’t think pop music gets any better than this. With apologies to their fans, but if Erasure had continued to release stuff of this calibre, I’d have stuck with them. Sparse electronic beeps and a haunting melody lift this to classic status. Lyrically dealing with the negative impact of commercialism and selling out, it’s just a glorious 3 minutes and 39 seconds of perfectly crafted tunesmith. The band has used this to open their live shows and it’s an instant crowd pleaser.


    01. Like A Motorway
    Where You’ll Find It: Tiger Bay (March 1994)

    This, the second release from "Tiger Bay", failed to make the UK top 40 and only just managed to scrape into the top 50, quite why remains a mystery because it’s something of a masterpiece. This is another of my "conversion" songs and the one that the most people have responded to. It pulsates and drives and you could almost – but not quite – dance to it. Continuing the techno-folk music theme of the "Tiger Bay" album, Sarah sings of the death of a friend’s boyfriend and its’ haunting refrain of "He’s gone" lodges itself into your brain and stays there. Yes, the subject matter is depressing, but this is quite simply magnificent. In 2003 at their Christmas gig at the Palladium, this was one of the encores and we went wild. This is a fan favourite.
  • Random Jottings (part one)

    11 Feb 2006, 0:01

    One thing that I love about music is its capacity to take people by surprise and to challenge preconceived misconceptions.

    Like most people, me and my friends have developed our own tastes in music. Like most friends we also want to share what we enjoy with each other. However, peer pressure - or the desire to appear trendy - means that we often reject stuff we haven't even heard before, or because we think that it's unfashionable.

    Sarah Brightman is a case in point. I suspect that like the majority of people, I first and foremost associated her with Andrew Lloyd Webber and "Phantom of the Opera". It was by chance that I happened to see a clip on a UK regional news programme in 1993 that featured a track from her then current album "Dive".

    It was so different from what I had I expected a Sarah Brightman song to sound like. It was Enigma-esque in its soundscape. I immediately forgot all about it because "Home and Away" came on afterwards, and I was desperate to discover if Pippa and Michael would find pregnant teenage runaway Sophie in the big city.

    Anyway, three years later, I came across the Sarah album in a bargain bin in HMV. It was a combination of not having to part with a huge amount of money, and a vague recollection of hearing that one song from the album that caused me to buy it. I took it home with no expectations, and it became the soundtrack to that particular summer.

    Since then I have bought every single album the woman has released, and I have been consistently impressed.

    I have endured the scathing comments from those who have flicked through my CD collection and taken the piss out of Sarah Brightman because they have immediately thought of Andrew Lloyd Webber. Then, when they don't realise it, I change the CD, play one of her's, and then the said same friends are all asking, "Who is this? This is really good."

    That's when I have the last laugh.
  • A Trip Down Memory Lane

    7 Ene 2006, 18:27

    Today I convinced myself that I'd finally run out of stuff to listen to (which frankly is ridiculous as I have somewhere in the region of 3,000 CD's!). I went through all the music I'd stored in my computer library and noticed that there were one or two obvious gaps.

    Most of these gaps were acts that I used to be a huge fan of but had grown out of (or in most cases bored of) and as a result I rarely listened to them anymore. So I set about rectifying that situation.

    I got no further than Erasure. Back in the day I was a HUGE Erasure fan, but in the mid-90's my interest began to wane and I stopped buying their stuff. I'd only stored the most recent "Best Of" on my PC, so I went back to the very beginning and "Wonderland". That led to "The Circus", then "The Two Ring Circus" and...well, you get the picture.

    Listening to all those albums again after such a long time brought back all kinds of memories, not just the unrequited crushes and teenage angst, but more importantly what made them such a special group in the first place. I feel like I've rekindled an old love affair and tomorrow I'll be heading down to HMV to purchase "Cowboy" and "Loveboat" (although I don't think I'll bother with "Other Peoples Songs").
  • Kate Bush

    23 Sep 2005, 0:21

    Passed a very pleasant evening in the pub discussing the wondrous Ms Bush with people who all worshipped her as much as I do. Came home a wee bit worse for wear and listened to her newbie "King Of The Mountain". After twelve years of waiting for new material I was very apprehensive. The verdict? It's been on repeat for the past hour or so (yes, it's THAT good!) and I fully expect it to top my audioscrobbler chart before too long (once they update properly!). Fantastic to have her back.
  • Mood Music

    14 Sep 2005, 21:46

    Funny things, moods. One minute you're fine and dandy, and the next...well...you've never felt worse. It works the other way too of course, and these things are usually triggered. That trigger might be stress at work, or a realisation that you're falling in love, or an argument with someone close to you, or an unexpected bit of good news.

    Very often what I choose to listen to reflects the mood that I'm in. It is incredibly rare for me to listen to the B-52's "Cosmic Thing" album when it ISN'T the height of Summer, and I always used to associate Kate Bush's "Hounds Of Love" album with Winter - but that's probably because of the track "Under Ice".

    Yesterday I ran into my ex. It wasn't planned and it wasn't easy. He was glowing, radiant and clearly happy, and after a particularly hard day in the office, I felt jaded, worn out, scruffy and frazzled in comparison. The music I've selected to listen to tonight has reflected that. I've tried to trick myself out of this mood by sticking on some utterly camp drivel, but bleak is what I want to hear because it's kinda how I feel today. Now, if I could only lay my hands on that Fields of the Nephilim CD...
  • The human voice is truly remarkable...

    12 Sep 2005, 19:42

    ...and undoubtedly one of THE most remarkable voices ever, was that of Ofra Haza. Casting my mind back, I can dimly recall the first time I heard her. It was 1988 and "Im Nin' Alu" had just charted. I had NEVER heard anything like it. I promptly went out and blew my pocket money on the 7" and 12" singles and drove my parents slowly mad by playing them repeatedly. New acts and singles usurped Ofra over the next year or so (such being the fickleness of youth) and eventually I forgot all about her.

    A few years ago, feeling all nostalgic for my formative years and feeling a need to soundtrack them, I went out and bought "Shaday" on CD. It brought back an awful lot of memories, but it also served to remind me of the pure quality and sheer beauty of the woman's voice.

    This evening I've been working my way through my catalogue of Ofra CD's. As I type, I'm listening to "Love Song" and I have goosebumps and the hairs on the back of my head stand firmly erect. I have no idea what she's singing about, but I feel tremendously moved...and it's all down to that voice.
  • Saint Etienne - It's all a bit sad really...

    12 Sep 2005, 1:02

    ...when it comes to THIS:

    Okay, this is totally childish, but whatever...

    Are there any users of Audioscrobbler/Last.FM on avenue?

    For the uninitiated, audioscrobbler is a plug-in for the mp3 player on your computer -- it records what you play and then uploads the song data into a huge community database, which you can then suggest other groups/songs that you might like based on your listening patterns. Last.FM then actually lets you stream tracks based on your profile or that of "similar" listeners. The site and software is still a little buggy after an overhaul last month, but it's still pretty neat to play around with. (And yes, before you ask, it works in Mac, Windows, and Linux environments and with a variety of players. Go to http://www.last.fm for info.)

    Anyway, a tiny part of building their database allows users to upload an image to represent various artists. There was nothing for SE, so last month I uploaded a new color photo from the TFTH campaign. For some reason, a few people didn't like it, and so someone suggested a b&w shot from, well, probably 10 years ago -- Pete, Sarah, and Bob all look, well, quite young to me.

    For whatever reason my initial shot was losing the vote, so I deleted it and uploaded another shot, not quite so new, but still more recent, but also color and just gorgeous generally. Some wag (sorry if you're here) has apparently decided he's got something against me and is trying to scotch that photo as well.

    So the end to this long story is, if there are any last.fm members here at avenue, can you pop over to http://www.last.fm/music/Saint+Etienne/+images and vote? (Preferrably for the beautiful shot that captures our immortal heroes and not for the one that could be mistaken for any one of a long-list of one hit wonders who lipsynched behind keyboards on Top of the Pops once in 1991.)

    Thanks.

    Yours truly.


    I'd rather the respective photo's were judged on individual merit (i.e. the one YOU (the reader) want to see gracing the top of the Saint Etienne page on audioscrobbler) but hey ho.

    So anyway, vote for his photo. It clearly means THAT much to him.