Happy Birthday Bowie!

This was going to be a post about my top electro 80s tracks to go running to, but a little thing intervened. And that little thing is DAVID BOWIE’S BIRTHDAY. It this were a weekday, it would be a National Holiday. Obviously. This is a supreme, glorious day. Bowie is 65 years old, wuzza wuzza. And his name……..is Jareth…….and he is the goblin king……

Not that I haven’t moved on from Bowie’s early work. No sirree. I started listening to Bowie around the time I was doing my AS Levels at school, and I think I should wholly attribute my success to Bowie and his good influence. Not really, it was all me. But your teen years are such a great time for discovering new music, because the music you hear and enjoy starts to become a part of your identity. You definite your parameters by what music, films and clothes you like. Everything you choose screams out some previously unexpressed facet of your nature. You revel in your new found self, certain that a piece of music has never, ever meant so much to anyone else.

I got into Bowie around the same time I got into Brecht and subsequently Cabaret. In other words, I was an absolutely insufferable, typical teenage Drama Student. And what? I think everyone should go through that phase. I still adore Bowie to this day, which is why I’m going to honour his birthday with my pick of his songs. I could, quite frankly, choose all of them. But I’ve tried to narrow it down, as he’s…well, you know. He’s done a lot.

1. Pallas Athena –  coming much later than the majority of my Bowie collection, I stumbled across this track by accident. I’d put it on a Spotify playlist but never heard it, and it suddenly came on when I was marching around the underground. I suddenly felt very dramatic and special. Special in so many, many ways. You’ve got to try it. How crazy is that sax?!

 

2. Alabama Song – You can imagine that, as a Brecht-loving drama stude, this was high up on my list. Discordant, often tuneless and fairly ‘ugly’ to listen to, I adored it. You’ll love this or hate it, but it’s undeniably bizarre and strangely cheerful, despite the occasionally gruesome lyrics.

 

 

3. Golden Years – Quite possibly my all time fave. In this video, he sounds a bit like Harold Steptoe as he introduces the song, but just ignore that and focus on the sublime sliding of his voice around the line ‘don’t let me hear you say life’s taking you nowhere, aaaangel’. Play this on road trips, at parties, when you need to do make a change in your life. I suspect that even when I’m 70, I’ll still be listening to him singing ‘the nights are warm and the days are youuuung’. An absolute must listen. Nothing’s going to touch you in these Golden Years.

 

 

4. Lady Stardust  – from the album ‘The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars’ (phew!) and album of quiet starts and huge endings to the tracks. I could have chosen any song from this album, but the lyrics on Lady Stardust are what won it for me in the end. ‘Lady Stardust sang her songs of darkness and disgrace.’

 

 

5. Wild is the Wind – Almost alarmingly beautiful. I know it’s not his originally, but I would say Bowie’s version is my favourite. He puts the inimitable Bowie stamp all over it, so much so that it sounds as if he wrote it anyway. I was in a performance of Jesus Christ Superstar in 2010, and I couldn’t get over how much ‘Gethsemane’ reminded me of this song. You could pretty much sing one on top of the other. Anyway, enough of sullying Bowie with talk of ALW musicals.

 

 

Honourable mentions, but you all know/love them anyway, so no point picking them specially:

Rock’n’roll suicide for the slow build and the ‘oh no! You’re not alone!’ section.

Rebel Rebel because you just can’t beat it.

Modern Love walks beside me, walks on by, gets me to the chuuuuurch on time!

Life on Mars because it’s other worldly yet familiar at the same time.

Sound and Vision is another of my all time faves. Blue blue, electric blue, is the colour of my room, where I will live. You do that, David.

Five Years And it was cold and it rained so I felt like an actor, and I thought of Ma and I wanted to get back there’.

China Girl Because you know why.

Queen Bitch purely for the line about the ‘bibbidy bobbidy hat’.

Time Won’t Let Me Go/Believe

A Bravery double bill!

Just a quick one, because I’m shortly heading off to my new job role (eek!) and am trying to adjust to being up and actually having to put proper clothes on, etc. I woke up with the first song in my head, without really knowing why. There’s something so sad about this song, despite the fact that it’s actually fairly upbeat. I remember listening to it years ago, stretched out on the grass in the garden in blinding sunlight, and waiting for my own life to ‘start’ properly. The song really struck a chord (sorry!) with me, this feeling of not really having experienced life, just having ‘watched it all on TV’. Of course, that all changed at uni, but listening to the song again I can still feel that twinge inside of me telling me to get up, get out and do something.

The second song is ‘Believe’. I’m absolutely crap at listening to proper ‘unhappy songs’. I get terrified if something is slow and wail-y and just has a guitar. I don’t like cathartic music and am generally wont to listen to some very upbeat stuff at times of emotional crisis. ‘Dry Your Eyes (Mate)’ is about as far as I’ll go into break up music. Nope, it’s time to sweep it all under the carpet and move on. The Bravery combine some very bleak lyrics with catchy, upbeat tuneage, which suits me perfectly. Believe is a fantastic song, and you should definitely acquaint yourself with it.

So, a happy Tuesday to everyone, have a good day back at work, and good luck battling the wind and rain!

Amelia xx

Party up

The lights on the Christmas tree are starting to sputter out, the decorations are gathering dust, and there are pine needles all over the floor. That being said, it’s nearly New Year’s Eve, which means it’s still party time. Whether you’re going out or staying in, I’ve chosen a few tracks to get you in the mood.

Warning: may contain atrocious music.

1. Man Like Me – Peculiar Fantastically annoying in the best possible way, this will most definitely get stuck in your head. Seeing the video is a must.

2. Sparks – Beat the Clock An 80s classic (well, 1979, actually), and we all know how much I love THOSE. Worth listening to for an insistent beat and lyrics like: ‘Entered school when I was 2, PHD’d that afternoon, never entered any sports, didn’t look too good in shorts, got divorced when I was 4’. Great.

3. DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince – Boom! Shake the Room No, don’t argue. You will be a hero for playing this. Trust me. Go back up now, and give a brother room!

4. Peaches – Boys Wanna Be Her Thumping beat, true glam rock flashback, and the perfect song to get you in the right frame of mind. The boys wanna be her, the girls wanna be her, the boys wanna be her…don’t you?

5. Santogold – You’ll Find a Way Santigold/Santogold is one of my favourite acts of the last few years, and sadly overlooked as a performer. It might be because she keeps changing her name, or because she tends to do a lot of producing. Anyway. Listen!

6. Laura Branigan – Self Control A bit of cheese, but you know you love it. She lives among the creatures of the night, she hasn’t got the will to try and FIGHT.

7. Crystal Fighters – Xtatic Truth To be honest, any Crystal Fighters track would do the job. I was torn between this and ‘With You’, but ultimately Xtatic Truth won because it lulls you into a false sense of calm with strange Basque sounds, before working itself up into a frenzy, and also due to the ‘We were born to be alone’ segment. I heard these guys at Latitude last Summer in a shack in the woods, in the rain, at night. They were ace.

8. Devo – Mind Games Yes, Devo. There’s nothing wrong with that, ok? This is from their latest album, which was pretty much panned from all angles. I don’t care, Devo will make your life better in various ways.

9. Foster the People – Call it What You Want This is just beautiful, and makes you sort of effervesce with excitement from the opening bars. Get it down you!

10. Empire of the Sun – Tiger by my Side It’s my policy to always include these guys on a party playlist, and you should do so too. 

11. The Kingsmen – Louie Louie This needs to be done. Ours is not to reason why. 

12. Calvin Harris – Merrymaking at My Place A party isn’t a party without Calvin Harris. At least, that’s what he told me to write. Quite frankly I’m getting a bit fed up of him turfing up with a bottle of vodka and expecting me to look after him, but whatever. 

13. Dizzee Rascal – Dance Wiv Me This never seems to get old. Just pop it on when people are flagging a bit, and you’ll be amazed at how many of your middle class acquaintances start ‘rapping’ along to the: ‘you’re all over there on your JACK JONES’ bit.

14. David Bowie – Pallas Athena David Bowie always finds a way onto my Spotify playlist, and this is a bonkers little track that will penetrate your head. 

15. Hot Chip – Over and Over Everybody loves Hot Chip. Hush now, I said everybody.

So there we go! A few tracks to get you started. Sadly I couldn’t include everything I wanted, so The Vaccines, Rick James, Foals and Sigue Sigue Sputnik (yes, really) are all unfortunately absent. What are your ‘go to’ party tunes? And don’t even bother telling me I have appalling taste in music, because I ALREADY KNOW.

Lots of love and happy listening,

Amelia xx

 

X Factor not-so-live blog: Part 1

Ah, the momentous not-quite-X Factor-final that is the Saturday night show. So far I’ve heard that: 1. One contestant will go, 2. The contestants will be forced at gunpoint into a duet with their mentor, and 3. We get to pick one judge to be sent away to the icy lands of Siberia, never to be seen again. Also, WAGNER was talking to The Guardian’s Stu Heritage for their liveblog last night! So what the hell are you doing reading my coverage??!

I’m only going to talk about the important points, because quite frankly, we all know they’ll be visiting home towns, weeping into the camera and coughing up whatever traumatic experiences have blighted their young years so far. I care not for this kind of rubbish. Anyway, the programme is predicted to last around 17 days, and I can’t possibly sit and blog for that long. As you can see, this isn’t even a live blog – it’s Sunday morning. Missing the boat. Anyway, don’t just stand there, let’s get to it, strike a pose there’s nothing to it, as Johnny Robinson would have said. Oh, Johnny. You should be there, at Wembley. This show is NOTHING without you.

Admit it, you just Googled ‘Johnny Robinson’, didn’t you? How soon we forget.

00.02 And the flashing lights, cut to’s and general loudness has started. Can epileptics watch this programme? Anybody? Actually, can people with good taste watch this programme? is probably a better question. All the contestants are excited (shrieky), grateful (sob-y), or nervous (an ugly combination of the two.)

00.03 Wow. WOW. I usually die a bit inside when Dermot dances, but this is probably the best thing I’ve ever seen. He’s grooving all over the city, and what – there’s GOLDIE. Remember her? No need for Google on that one, eh? And suddenly he’s in the studio, hopping about in a manner I like to call ‘small bug does Austin Powers impersonation’.

00.07 Judges have been introduced. Gary Barlow is sucking fun from the audience like a dementor sucks life from Harry Potter. Was that their MO? It’s been ages since I read Potter.

00.07 I’M MISSING THE ARCHERS FOR THIS. Right, onto Amelia Lily. Now, they say she’s 17, but she has the air of a creature some 200 years old, who wanders the Venice canals eating souls and changing her appearance to avoid capture. Anyone else with me on that?

And then I fast forwarded it a bit because I couldn’t BEAR all the sob stories.

The Daily Mail is running a story tomorrow on how Amelia Lily has not opened her eyes since she was 10.

00.11 I honestly don’t think I’m going to make this one, guys. The contestants are singing ‘Greatest Day of Our Lives’, there are people at the back holding up torches, and the crowd WILL NOT SHUT UP. I’m already feeling more traumatised than last Sunday, when I watched Rory Kinnear having sex with a pig. That was peachy compared with this. Rory said he’s bringing a goat over tonight, just for a bit of variation. We like to mix it up, you know.

AD BREAK: Unremarkable except for the fact that it had a BEAUTIFUL Marc Jacobs ad in it.

Read part two here: https://ameliaflorencesimmons.wordpress.com/2011/12/11/x-factor-not-so-live-blog-part-2/

X Factor not-so-live blog: Part 2

00.18 More utter dross as the contestants visit their respective home towns. I can’t write about this, chaps. I’ve got some integrity. No, wait, I’ve misspelt that. I meant I’ve got some grit in my eye, from watching this awful parade of lunacy.

00.19 Gaz has popped in with Marcus to meet his fam. He looks a woman (Marcus’ mum?!) right in the eye with the smouldering charm of the old bloke in the Werther’s Original ad, and says ‘it’s a bit hot in here….can I take my coat off?’ He’s turned away from the camera and I’m convinced he’s wearing a t shirt with the face of Marcus on, just to show he’s game for a laugh. But…no, turns out he’s just wearing a shirt with EVERY SINGLE BUTTON DONE UP ON IT. Has anyone watched the Amish programme? Because Gary makes the Amish people look like backing dancers for Lady Gaga compared with his austere wardrobe.

Now we’re literally just watching Gary sitting down and nearly having an orgasm over a cup of tea. My mother insists on calling him ‘Grandad Barlow’, and for once I don’t think she’s being utterly insane. He’s the oldest person in the world (bar Amelia Lily, which I have already addressed.)

00.20 Gary has been talking to Marcus’s grandpa. He clearly feels right at home. There’s a “touching” scene between Marcus and his mum. I do love Marcus, he’s got an unbelievably perfect face. But my hate for the X Factor overwhelms everything.

00.21 Marcus is singing with what looks like the cast of the porno version of ‘Pan Am’. Christ on a stick, Marcus has just SUNG something like ‘X Factooooorrrr finaaaal, wooooo yeeeeeeeeeaaaaaahhh’. That’s a bit like when I’m pottering around the kitchen going ‘cup of coffeeeeee, oh yeeeeeah, making myseeelf some coffeeeeee’. Which I, erm, do actually do. So shoot me!

He’s doing an actually rather good version of ‘Hey Ya’. And WHAT? Some blokes in high vis jackets just hopped on the stage. I like to think they’re some random flash mob. But really, whoever styles these things has no aesthetic taste whatsoever. I am not looking at a stylised, elegant image of an airport, I’m genuinely looking at the set of a cheap porno. Any minute, the high vis jacket guys are going to start saying things like ‘I hear you need your propellers rotated, wink wink’, or ‘Want to see what I’ve got in MY overhead storage compartment?’

Oh, ok. So I could never write a cheap porno script. I think we’ve all learnt something here today.

00.24 Prime example of why I hate X Factor right here: Tulisa leans over the desk, eyes Marcus and says ‘YOU DID IT!’ The crowd go nuts. WHY? Isn’t that like saying ‘well, you turned up’? Because you quite literally have nothing better to say? Surely that’s the comment equivalent of a certificate of attendance?

00.28 Little Mix now. I do like these girls, but I don’t like Tulisa making them out to be the saviour of womankind, or a fourth wave of feminism. I might be wrong. Maybe in a few years at uni people will be studying Helen Cixous, Andrea Dworkin, and Little Mix.

00.32 Little Mix are doing ‘You got the love’. A rare treat, to hear this song. It’s so nice because it’s so underperformed, I find. They’re doing ok, though. Sweet enough girls. That’s…really all I’ve got to say on it. Except for that fact that they look like freaking B*witched. ALL DENIM? ALL DENIM???????? X Factor stylist, you’re on crack, right? It’s cool, you can tell me. Come to mention it, ‘Little Mix’ sort of sounds like a drug some utterly dubious type would press into your hand at a party, intoning ‘here….have some Little Mix.’

00.35 Gazza says he’s been in a band for years, and that ‘friendship’ is really important. Yeah, let’s ask Robbie what he thinks, shall we?

00.42 Time for the other Amelia, aka the Lily variety. I can’t work out why she makes me so cross. I think she has the face of a girl who would give you death stares all night in a bar/club for no reason whatsoever, then say rude things very loudly about one of your friends. Just pure conjecture.

00.46 Yes, let’s quell any ideas that she looks/sounds like a third rate Christina Aguilera by giving her a Christina Aguilera song to sing, shall we? She can sing, for sure, but…oh, I can’t be bothered. I’m going to go and order a dress online.

00.47 Right, that’s all done. Now, this is interesting. I do know the result of who goes out, and I know it to be SPOILER ALERT BUT WHO CARES ANYWAY: Amelia Lily. I suspect this is nothing to do with singing but damage limitation. HMV and M&S both seemingly saying she’ll win, then of course the suspicious comeback, and the fact that it was announced she’d be back in an hour before voting closed. She had to go tonight, because otherwise the X Factor’s “reputation” (haaaaaa!) would be damaged irreparably.

There’s a man supporting Amelia called ‘Mr Pink’. He’s just covered in pink paint. Amelia admits to knowing him. Ok, I think that’s ultimately what scuppered her chances.

00.52 They’re already doing a recap. AN HOUR IN. Actually, it’s good, because I was so blacked out on despair, self-loathing and that ‘Little Mix’ that someone at a party gave me that I missed most of it.

00.53 JLS are performing. Lovely chaps. I can’t be bothered to write about it. I’m kind of just looking forward to seeing the disappointment on Amelia Lily’s face when she doesn’t get through. Damn, everything Charlie Brooker said about me was true. I would totally tune in if the PM had to have sex with a pig. I’m awful. But again, enough about my personal life.

Read part 3 here: https://ameliaflorencesimmons.wordpress.com/2011/12/11/x-factor-not-so-live-blog-part-3/

X Factor not-so-live blog: part 3

1.02 AN HOUR IN! I can do this, I can do this. AN HOUR TO GO?? No, I can’t do this.

Absolutely brilliantly, the judges have all gone to prepare, apart from Louis, who is sitting on his own looking like a happy puppy. Louise* just mimed playing the bongos, and rambled a bit about what he would have sung, given half the chance. Damn, imagine if Wagner was in this year, and Louis and Wagner did a duet of ‘King of the Bongo’? With Louis and Wagner both PLAYING the bongos and grinning at each other? Oh my god. Just the sheer thought has made me so overwhelmingly happy I know that I can keep going with this programme. I’m happier than Gary Barlow with a cup of tea. I am restored.

*This was a genuine typo, but I’m going to leave it in.

1.04 Marcus is saying how he’s ‘never met anyone as talented, sexy, and with such a penchant for velvet as Gary Barlow’. Mere weeks ago, I would have agreed. But it’s all gone so, so wrong for Gary and me. I think it’s probably because I keep watching Rory Kinnear have sex with animals. (I’m sorry about all the refs, but I’m still so disturbed by Black Mirror that humour is my only way of coping.)

Wow. Gary does sound…velvety smooth. And I love this song. ‘Always a woman’ by Billy Joel from the ‘Music John Lewis has ruined’ album. Marcus is kind of going for it a bit too much though, which ruins the sleek vocals of Gary, who I’ve suddenly started fancying again.

To give him his due, Gary is taking a back seat and really letting Marcus go for it. And giving Marcus the mildly saucy eyebrow. It’s all faintly homoerotic. But I’d rather just watch Gary do this. It was very sweet though, very retro. They even did a delightful little laugh afterwards.

Now Gary has spoilt it all by talking. Going on about how great Marcus is, when we know full well Gaz spent the first couple of months pawing over Frankie Cocozza and revelling in his filthy, filthy hair.

Sneaky fast forward.

1.10 Little Mix time! Don’t do Little Mix kids, it’s bad. For this particular look, the X Factor stylist robbed the Swarovski crystal store at gunpoint and took them for all they had. Singing wise, it’s….ok. I hope I’m getting across a point here, that the X Factor isn’t remotely about singing prowess. Oh NO! They’ve done that whole ‘REEEEE-MIX’ thing. Only Missy Elliot can do that. Her, and T.S. Eliot. If you don’t believe me, check out ‘J Alfred Prufrock: the Death Monkey remix’.

1.14 BLOODY HELL! Some complete idiot has got a Little Mix tattoo on their arm. A genuine tattoo! FOR LIFE. What an idiot. I mean, don’t get it on your ARM. My Johnny Robinson tattoo is on my bottom.

1.15 Uh oh, after the break it’s Amelia Lily and Kelly. I’ll be back soon, I’ve just got to remove all the glass from the room. This is going to get shrieky, isn’t it?

1.20 Apparently the competition is about to get ‘raging’, according to Dermot. Raging like my headache.

He’s now pimping out the atrocious bit of tomfoolery that is the ‘tap to clap app’. TAP TO CLAP. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Thank god there’s finally some technology to make the labour intensive business of clapping much easier for me. Phew!

1.21 Kelly says she knew from the start Amelia ‘had something’. No STD jokes. No STD jokes. Aaaargh, this is killing me. They’re doing ‘River Deep, Mountain High’. Gawd bless America. I don’t hate this. Well, I do and I don’t.

Ten hours later, and they’re hitting a note that only insane chipmunks can hear. Also, Kelly is super duper out of breath after that. Yo! Kelly! Try doing 10 minutes of a Tracy Anderson workout if you think THAT’S tough!

1.24 Kids, I’ve got to leave you here. I’m deadly serious, I think my mental health will be compromised if I watch anymore of this freakshow. Yep, I’m picking up the remote to turn off, and – OH HOLY JEBUS. A woman has made an ‘Amelia Lily cocktail’. She names the ingredients as ‘cherry, pina colada, pineapple’ or something like that. PINA COLADA IS NOT AN INGREDIENT. Oh, hang on. I can’t turn off. I’m about to see Amelia Lily have sex with a pig, live on national TV. Right? That was the deal, wasn’t it? Charlie Brooker has broken me. Finally.

1.46 I’ve fast forwarded Leona Lewis, a million ad breaks, and Michael Buble. I went off Buble after seeing footage of him in concert, swearing all over the place and being generally inappropriate. I’m not even putting the accent on the ‘e’, just to annoy him. There was an ad with Kasabian, a group of utterly beautiful men who produce proper music. It brought me back to earth.

1.52 Nearly time for the moment when I get to see disappointment and fury etched on the face of Amelia Lily. Hooray! And a happy Christmas to one and all.

It’s a beautiful moment. Actually, Amelia handles it very, very well. She does a kind of head nod, smiles widely, hugs Marcus, and all without opening her eyes. That was actually very, very classy. Good for her.

So, we made it. WE MADE IT! Now excuse me, because I’ve got to go and have a shower, and erase my memory. Still, at least we’ll always have this not-quite-live blog.

3 weeks till Christmas!

Is everybody feeling festive yet? I am! We picked up a tree yesterday – sadly everywhere in the world seems to have run out of lights though, so I’m looking at it right now, perched against the garden table, all sad and undressed. This is my first Christmas where I’ve been working from home – the last two years, I worked time-consuming jobs, and in 2009 I was working both Christmas Eve and Boxing Day, so I’m really excited to be a little more in control of my schedule this year.

Apparently we’re due for some snow in the South East, and for the first time since I was a child/at uni (fairly similar times in my life, actually…) I’m really excited about it. The prospect of not having to fight my way across icy streets/have a 7 hour journey home from a town 6 miles away is extremely thrilling. I hated the snow we had last year as it just represented a whole heap of problems in terms of getting around. Oh, woe is me.

Anyway, we’ve got a tree, the house is full of things like candied peel and Heston’s mulled cider (if you’re near a Waitrose, GET SOME), the weather’s getting colder, we’re going to have our first open fire….perfect. Sussex in Winter is absolutely beautiful. What are you looking forward to? What makes you instantly feel festive? When I was younger, I always felt mega Christmassy whenever I heard Simon & Garfunkel. Yep, that’s just how cool I am.

I’ve posted this particular music video not because it’s wildly festive, but because it’s been on my Winter playlist for two years running now, so it’s intrinsically linked with Christmas for me. Not the most imaginative of videos, but actually quite nice to have a break from some of those very ‘try hard’ videos that some of my favourite bands seem to go for. I had a spate of watching music videos that put me off my lunch (Yeasayer and MGMT, I’m looking at YOU), so it’s good to see just an old school video that isn’t making any huge point. ‘Old school’? Did I really just say that?! I’d better stop typing now…