Blue Eyes to Bonny

THE first job anyone paid me for was in the newspaper industry, several years before somehow impressing enough rewriting press releases during a couple of weeks’ work experience to be taken on as a trainee reporter.

Well, someone’s got to deliver newspapers – or at least they did, back in the days when they were the only way to sit down and digest news.

Several years before starting to write for them, my newspaper round was inherited by someone else in the village about the age of 14 or 15.

Newspapers B&W (5)It couldn’t have been any older, spells at a DIY store/garden centre (briefly) and in the produce department at Sainsbury’s followed before A Levels, but it was old enough that getting up for a Sunday morning paper round was given the extra handicap of the twin effects of playing rugby and nights out on Saturdays.

Those Sunday mornings could be grim, starting at the bottom of the hill towards Gloucester Docks and heading steadily uphill – complete with a heavy bag bulging with papers and Sunday supplements – to our village.

They were made more manageable by one of my early personal stereos. The one mentioned in an earlier post that had a built-in radio. It was falling apart, had no cover and ate tapes at any given opportunity, but it had a radio. That was quite something back then.

The radio sticks in my mind as, for some reason, habit necessitated a switch from tape to radio about halfway through the round. Probably because a tape had been chewed or low batteries ruled out rewinding and no pencil was available.

For some time before and, increasingly with a hangover, for years to come, the soundtrack to a Sunday morning was the Archers’ omnibus, wafting up the stairs with the smells of cooking the roast as my mother not so subtly got the message across that it was time to shake off the effects of the night before, get up and take the dog for a walk.

But for those months out delivering papers in all weathers, the sound of Sunday mornings was Radio 1 and Peter Powell. Look, I was young, OK.

One of the features which developed on his show, which seemingly veered away (if ever so slightly) from the normal playlist chart fodder, was the Slipped Discs section. Focusing on singles which failed to crack the Top 40 but garnered a fair amount of affection (back in the days when you had to sell a fair number of singles to make the charts and when my knowledge of numbers 1-40 was pretty impressive), it took off and culminated in an end-of-year chart voted by listeners.

Very few of those songs, stick in the memory but The Pogues certainly had a couple of entries in the upper echelon – and they popped up, twice, in the latest section of my iPod with The Body Of An American, largely overlooked until its use in The Wire.

But beating all comers with two tracks at the top of the list was Prefab Sprout.

Steve McQueenThose songs – Faron Young and When Love Breaks Down – are still some way off on this journey, but this section included two other tracks from their simply wonderful Steve McQueen album, Blueberry Pies and Bonny.

Steve McQueen – or Two Wheels Good as it is known on the other side of the Atlantic due to a legal dispute – was another of the key albums of my teenage years and still gets wheeled out on a reasonably regular basis.

Rather like stumbling on old photographs or bumping in to old friends, it brings back a lot of good – and not so good – memories and has even been known to make me emotional.

And, above all, it is still a bloody great album stuffed with excellent songs – When Love Breaks Down still sounds as good now as it did 30 years – and is one of that elite selection that needs to be listened to from start to finish in order. No shuffling or skipping here.

One of my longest-standing musical arguments is that the second side of Ocean Rain is about as perfect a run of 20-odd minutes ever produced. The first side of Steve McQueen comes close and while it may wander off the quest for perfection midway through the second side, it is undoubted proof that Paddy McAloon is one of the great songwriting talents of his generation.

One of the most overlooked ones – partly, it seems, due to personal choice – but a unique voice that needs cherishing.

Bonny wrapped up this section, kicked off with Blue Eyes by Destroyer that had the distinction of being the 1000th track. Just another 10,507 to go – and growing.

The monster which is Blue Monday popped up three times – twice by New Order and once with a dodgy cover by some lot called Biosphere. Remember hearing it for the first time when performed live on Top of the Pops and wondering who this bloke was mumbling about “shallow bays” and struggling to keep a straight face.

Pixies also popped up three times with Bone Machine, while some bizarre alphabetising put The Jam’s A Bomb In Wardour Street into the heart of the Bs.

And there was also one of the more bizarre entries on my iPod – which came as a bit of a surprise – was Blue Moon by Robert De Niro and Liza Minnelli. Very odd and proof the method does not transfer to singing.

Bodies by Pale Seas came courtesy one of those pleasant surprises you get rarely when getting to a gig early enough to catch the support band, while there was a lovely little run of less heralded tracks with Blue.Pt ii by Waxahatchee and two tracks called Blue Ridge Mountain by Fleet Foxes and Hurray For The Riff Raff, who also popped up with The Body Electric.

A recent addition well worth exploring further…

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