23/10/2019

ONE THOUSANDTH POST!!


Yes, this is the one thousandth post on This Way Up blog and I’ve been wondering what to put in it. Should I perhaps drone on pretentiously about the art of the whole thing? Or dazzle you with graphs and blog stats galore?  Perhaps I should use it to say something incredibly controversial or maybe make a surprise personal announcement like they do on YouTube.  Anyway in the end I thought I’d indulge your patience with some unposted posts. “You what?” Not all of the stuff I write for the blog gets posted for various reasons mostly because I don’t finish it or the idea isn’t really substantial enough for more than a couple of paragraphs. So I fished about in the box (well there isn’t an actual box) and below you’ll see several never before posted items of varying quality. 


Actually, here’s one set of stats only which are the most viewed 10 posts on the blog ever. A weird selection which perhaps is more representative of the sort of things people Google than readers actually seeking out these particular posts in their thousands.



Looking for the Alien 
I’m looking for an alien. OK that sounds like I’m travelling incognito wearing dark clothes and asking odd questions of shadowy figures. Its not like that; what I mean is that I’m searching for a sculpture. Which is the sort of thing that sounds easy as sculptures generally don’t move around on their own (except those times when they do…) but you see there’s just one piece of actual photographic evidence that it existed. Puzzled faces. Ahem, let me start from the, erm, start. In the late Seventies the family stayed for a week in student accommodation in Worcester during the summer holidays as my mum was on a course there. It was at the St John’s campus of the University and for a kid the place was great to explore seeing as there was nobody else there except the other people on the course. Anyway standing outside the main building was an impressionistic sculpture of a sort of alien warrior, well at least thats what it looked like to me and here I am pictured with that warrior.


I can’t recall much about it though other than what you can see on the photo. Recently I thought it would be interesting to find out something about the work of art, who made it, what it was doing there etc. St John’s Campus still exists yet when I found photos of it today there is no warrior. OK maybe it moved? Nope. 
What about a general search for sculptures or statues in Worcester? Nothing. Several Googleisations later I had found out absolutely nothing, not even a tiny clue about this statue. Which of course made me even more determined to find something. If it hadn’t been for the photo I’d have imagined I had dreamt it but clearly it was there then and the campus seems relatively similar now to how it was then. So what happened to the statue? Did it come to life – as I imagined at the time that it would- and stroll away on some vital mission? Did it just one day vanish back into the dimension from whence it came? Was it a student project and therefore only a temporary exhibit left from last term? It looked too sturdy for that.

During that week I could wander around the campus much of which was empty. It was a pleasant location with a lot of heavily planted borders, several tennis courts and a lot of narrow walkways and the weather was glorious- sunny, bright and light till about ten at night. So I never did venture out after dark but I definitely had an idea even at the time that this sculpture could move. This was possibly inspired by the iconic sequence in the film Jason and the Argonauts when the metal statue called Talos comes alive. As the film was shown fairly regularly on tv in those days it left a strong memory. This statue was nowhere near the size of Talos but nevertheless I imagined it animated and moving about in the same manner as those Ray Harryhausen creations did. What would it be called? Probably something incorporating the letter Z. Zaan. Or Zavrak. Or perhaps just Za. Knowing what students are like they probably called it Fred or Dave.
I tried mailing the University’s Facebook page to see if they had any information but though they promised to research it and get back to me they never did. So I am none the wiser. Maybe someone who lives in Worcester might know something about this? Its odd that is vanished without trace as the city seems to like sculptures and statues and has hosted such things as giraffes, Edward Elgar and Turtle Boy whoever he was. So it looks like I may never track down Zav, my old metallic alien mate, but if you’re out there and can read then maybe get in touch and take me to your planet! 
My all- time classic misheard pop song lyrics

Since the dawn of recorded music, people have mistaken lyrics for something entirely different than what the singer is actually singing. Never Mind the Buzzcocks used to have a round about it in each show. Sadly pristine recording techniques, no tinny radios and Google means this no longer happens with today’s pop kids who will just (yawn) look up any lyric they can’t understand. So in a nostalgic mood I thought I’d relate some of my all time classic misheard pop lyrics down the years. And if you’re reading them and thinking “Well I knew they weren’t singing that” then you’re no fun at all!

“A young girl with eyes like potatoes”
  Madonna- La Isla Bonita
This could be quite clever because you do get eyes in potatoes which are, a food scientist writes, growing points on potato tubers. Its very unlikely that Madge was thinking of such things when co-writing this song especially as the actual line is “a young girl with eyes like the desert” which doesn’t actually make any more sense. Does this girl have dry eyes? Because we like to fact you whenever we can, you may like to know that `La Isla Bonita` translates as “the beautiful island”. An island, one assumes, without any potatoes. 
“Suzie, worn out, kicked and died” 
Elton John- `Crocodile Rock
Part way through Elt’s song about teenagerdom comes what sounds like an unfortunate dancing related accident in which Suzie expires after doing the Crocodile Rock for too long. Luckily if you check the lyrics there is nothing more untoward than the fact she’s wearing her red dress tight. That in itself could lead to problems if she scoffs too many donuts of course. So was the Crocodile Rock a real thing? It seems that it was an invention of lyricist Bernie Taupin though there were obscure dance crazes that history has never recorded, it is difficult to imagine how any dance could resemble a crocodile. Incidentally Elton John has never much liked this song even though it was one of his earliest UK hits.

“Call me Tom Baker up”
REM- The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite 
Of course it was frequently difficult to know what the jiggins REM were on about even if you could hear the lyrics properly – just look at the name of this song! In this case though thousands of people really thought that Michael Stipe was requesting to speak to television’s best known Time Lord. The actual line “Call me when you try to wake her up” just doesn’t sound like it fits into the music and you have to listen very hard not to hear the words `Tom Baker`. We can only speculate what Stipey would have asked Tom had he called him up. Hopefully it wouldn’t be “What’s it like in space?”. 

“Come on to the Post Office…don’t stop till you get enough”
Michael Jackson- Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough 
Is this really Jacko encouraging his mates to stock up on stamps and elastic bands?  Nope. Turns out its some sort of Star Wars related message as the lyric actually reads “Keep on with the force don’t stop”.  Sounds to me like more of a plan to rob the Post Office using those Jedi powers to gain a lifetime’s supply of padded envelopes.


“Annie, eat your oatcake, eat your oatcake, eat your oatcake, eat your oatcake Annie”
Michael Jackson- Smooth Criminal
 Poor Annie, forever harassed by Jacko to eat that oatcake. Actually he’s just asking how she is. “Annie, are you okay, are you okay, are you okay, are you okay, Annie.” To which Annie would probably reply; “Well I would be if you’d stop jabbering on about the freaking oatcake.” 
“I believe in milko. Since you came along. You said some things”
Hot Chocolate- You Sexy Thing
Aah bless. This is what I imagined these lyrics were when you used to hear music from tinny radios and didn’t have a copy of one of those pop magazines with lyrics to hand. Besides I had no idea what a sexy thing was. 
“Are we human – or are we dancer?” 
The Killers- Human
 Actually The Killers do sing that because it was probably impossible to find anything that rhymes with the previous lines’ word `answer.` Are we human or are we prancer?  Lancer? Financier? 
“Cocoa heart, hard done by you”
Elton John- Sacrifice
 Elt again, this time singing about someone who has clearly been drinking too much cocoa. It’s actually “cold, cold heart” of course. 
“You don’t have to say you love me just because…..”
Dusty Springfield- You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me 
Not so much a misheard lyric as an unheard one. For years nobody really knew what this lyric was as Dusty’s voice seems to drop into a mumble after the word `because`. The thing was there is no word `because` in the lyric and the actual line ends “just be close at hand” which somehow makes matters sound even sadder than they already were. 
“She’s so frumpy, yeah”
Peter Gabriel - Games Without Frontiers
This 1980 song had the breathy backing vocals of Kate Bush six years before her better known collab with Peter Gabriel `Don’t Give Up`. On this occasion though she seems to be passing harsh comment on an unknown woman. Actually she’s singing `Jeux sans frontieres` which as we all know is French for `Games without Borders` and was also one of the names used by the peculiar 1970s tv show called `It’s A Knockout` in the UK.


The Bottles – the greatest pop group in the world

For the first time- this is their story. Part One: Early Days
The Bottles are the greatest pop group the world has ever seen. Even today artists cite them as their main inspiration and the names of the four musicians are inscribed in the heads of every budding rock star. Which can be a nuisance. So most of them grow their hair long.
Our story begins in the early 1960s at a garden fete in Liverpool where John Lemon’s band The Sorry Men play on top of a fork lift truck. Unfortunately due to the driver not realising there is a teenage pop group playing on his truck (this was, after all, the 1960s) drives off with them still playing. Another boy Paul McCart is highly amused, believing this to be part of the show (in fact for several months he would demand the return of “that funny fork lift truck, like”) and is later introduced to Lemon after their quiffs get stuck together in a narrow corridor. The artistic differences that would later cause ructions showed as early as this when they tried to write a song about the experience. McCart’s lyric was titled `Brilliant Fork Lift Truck Day` whereas Lemon wrote `Death to all Fork Lift Truck Drivers`
Nonetheless they pieced together the first line up including Lemon’s school friend Harry Georgeson (despite the fact that, at 6, he was a little younger than the others), drummer Pete Worst and another bloke called Stu Something who, ironically, did very little on stage but made a fantastic cup of tea. They chose the name The Bottles after McCart’s Auntie Harold remarked how they looked “like a row of milk bottles” at their first group photo.
Soon after they started playing gigs in a Cavern. Attendance at these gigs was non existent as they forgot to tell anyone they were playing. However amongst the badger community they became very popular. Badgers would crowd into the cavern during their lunch time to hear the group play. Soon word began to spread about this group who played to badgers in a cavern and actual people started to attend the gigs. The Bottles also began to play a residency at a club in Germany after their driver took a wrong turn. 

(John- Er that’s the end cos I never finished it but it’s promising yes? Not that I was the first person to call them The Bottles....)


Prognosis# 1  Manfred Mann’s Earthband – Angel Station (1979) 
(John- This was going to be a series about the lesser known edges of prog rock but it never got further than this. I only really liked the title of the series!) 
I once knew someone who was a massive fan of Manfred Mann’s Earthband to the extent that he had an enormous patch sewn into his denim jacket featuring their impressive logo. Band patches were commonplace back then but this was an uncommonly huge patch spanning much of the back of the jacket. He was also possibly the only person with such a patch in the UK. At a time –early 1980s – when so called prog rock had been shoved into the sidelines, this jacket was a fairly bold statement of intent though truth is that most people would see it and not even know who MMEB were. In fact they were never really big over here, enjoying the occasional hit but flying well below the superstar radar. Anyway this guy was actually known as Manfred to the rest of us but I wonder how many other people knew it signified anything other than his name. His actual name was Richard and it was he who told me at some length how brilliant the group was and how I should really get their new album which was due imminent release. As I was in what I now call my rock phase (or should that be RAWK Faze!) I did just that. Not easy as I didn’t have much money but then again I am always willing to give something a try if someone encourages me passionately to do so. The album was called `Chance` so I gave it a chance and you’ll note from the title of this post that it’s not even the album I’m supposed to be talking about but never mind. It introduced me to the obscure, interesting and twisting career of Manfred Mann which by then had already been going since the Sixties and at time of writing (2017) is still going.

Born Manfred Lubonwitz in South Africa in 1940 the artist who became Manfred Mann has enjoyed a chameleonic progress through the musical landscape, occasionally surfacing with a hit single but mostly cruising under the water with a loyal following enough to sustain a now 50 year plus career. It began in the Sixties when he lent his non-de-plume to his band and they enjoyed several hits including `Do Wah Diddy`, `Sha La La` and the more grammatically reassuring `Pretty Flamingo`. In the late Sixties he embarked on a more complex musical project called Manfred Mann’s Chapter Three in which he indulged in jazz rock but this soon became the more user friendly Manfred Mann’s Earthband whose music might be best described- and I mean this in the nicest possible way- as soft prog. That is to say while there’s plenty of soloing it is within the context of songs even if some of them last more than the three and a half minutes that most people prefer. This sound evolved after early albums toyed with more standard rock patterns. They were known particularly as strong interpreters of songs by Bruce Springsteen. Mann’s own keyboard style was fast but light, zipping across the keys like quicksilver. The group had a handful of 70s hits with Springsteen songs `Blinded by the Light` and `Davy’s on the Road Again` but like a lot of their peers were aware of the changing trends as the 70s drew to a close. 


So when it came to recording `Angel Station` the band had already pared off the soloing in favour of a more song centred approach which helped to contemporise their sound. Interestingly the album features a six note descending theme that is contained in most of the songs while two tracks have the same tune but different lyrics. It’s easy to imagine these quirks were inspired by the unusual cover art which has shades of the artist MC Escher.
Though the Boss’ material was absent this time round there was a version of Bob Dylan’s `You Angel You` though the other tracks came from less well known writers. `Angels at my Gate` evokes a demonic card game with echoey vocals and a hypnotic countdown chorus. Two songs use the same tune but with different lyrics, an intentional conceit that the sleeve notes draw our attention to. `You Are- I Am` and `Hollywood Town` manage to seem different despite this; the former a comparison of what a relationship means to both parties with some extravagant comparisons, whilst `Hollywood Town` depicts the less glamorous aspect of the place.
`Don’t Kill It Carol` is the most overtly prog song with a lyric about an alien plant that can be harmed by untruths “one more lie- and it could die”. It’s not clear but I like to imagine this is a scenario where the man has pretended this to be the case to ensure his other half tells him the truth or perhaps an allegory comparing their relationship to a plant. `Resurrection` is the wryest lyric taking up the theme of religious commercialism referring to “Jesus hats, Jesus socks, Jesus coats”  and a final verse that concludes the best way forward is the opposite of loaves and fishes “there’s more money that way.”
The album’s gorgeous centrepiece though is `Waiting for the Rain` which started life as a country song and while retaining the melancholy of the genre is developed into other places. It was originally penned by Bill Falcon.  As he always does Manfred adapts the song with Chris Thompson’s achingly sung interpretation of the lyric adding a real emotional undertow. The words speak of a friend who is going through hard times and seems to be giving up, slipping backwards or worse. “You told me you were going to make it” Thomson sings before the chorus observes that the friend is “slipping down again.”  Many songs would leave it at that but there’s an encouraging optimism at play as well in a middle eight that observes “You’ve had enough pain” before declaring “I want to see you win- and get it all. Hey, I never want to see you fall”. The song outros with an unexpected, exquisite, extended violin solo.
There’s a strong visual feel to the album sleeve design too using the Tube station idea though the results do not resemble any passengers likely to be seen at London’s real Angel Station. Like all MMEB albums `Angel Station` was a modest success and 18 months later they’d followed it up with the rockier Trevor Rabin produced Chance. The band has continued to this day with a loyal following especially in Europe ensuring they can always be guaranteed a warm welcome. And I imagine somewhere in those crowds there may well be a middle aged bloke with a fading MMEB patch on an old denim jacket. 















Ten Things people don’t have to bother doing these days
Arranging where to meet next time 
It used to be that the last five minutes- or longer- of a get together, meeting or date consisted of arranging where you would next be meeting. This meant committing to arrangements days in advance which in turn meant people had to be fairly well organised. The spontaneous happening was rare because people lacked the tools to be spontaneous. Everything had to be arranged in advance and this of course led to that panic moment when you realised that there was no way you were going to be there on time! The traffic was too slow, the bus never came, you got out of work too late. What can you do? The answer was sit there and stew and when you finally arrived Penelope had gone off with the man from the corner shop. Grrggh. If only there was something where you could instantly message people… 
Looking at maps in cars 
Once upon a day maps were all on paper and folded out into enormously impractical things that required a large table to deal with them. Sat in the passenger seat of a car in the days before sat nav was invented it was the only way to navigate which meant unfolding it to the point where it completely filled the interior of the vehicle. And it was your responsibility to shout out the instructions probably in far less of a measured voice than sat nav does. The worst drivers to navigate for were those who while insisting you consult the map believed they knew the way better. “It says left” “I’m sure it’s right.” Course, if it was left it was somehow still your fault they’d gone right.




Writing cheques while a long queue watches 
Before contactless, before Chip and Pin there were cheques. Unless you used cash, you would have to write out a cheque to pay for your items and people can only write so quickly. What the queue behind you demanded was that you write faster whereas what the shop wanted was legible writing and these two were often in conflict. The worst part of the process was when they checked your signature against the one on your card. Cards gave you a very, very, very narrow strip in which to sign whereas cheques had more space for people to write their most ornate, flowery autograph. Trouble was if these two signatures didn’t match, your cheque could be rejected. And that really would rile the queue. 
(John- I couldn’t think of any more!)


10 unlikely claims in songs 
“I believe I can fly”
“I would walk 500 miles.. and I would walk 500  more..."
“I am the resurrection” 
(John- This is as far as this idea got)  
Finally...an introduction
A couple of years back I tried recording a greeting for the blogger bio page but ended up not using any of them. Why didn't I just record one indoors? I have no idea!!



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