Today is my Dad’s Birthday. There he is above – the middle one – on what I’m guessing is a barge wearing a jumper I’m sure I’ve seen friends wearing. Is that Gordon on the left there as well? Family friend, not the train.
Anyway old Papa Bear has a card but he doesn’t have a present yet, I’ve only just started a new job and I don’t get paid until Friday so there you go, no money no present… never been one for arts and crafts before you say “Oh you should have made him something.” I could draw him a cartoon but that’s pretty much where it ends. So instead I thought, in the mean time, I’d honour him with a post on my blog, something I know he reads in kind and general interest from time to time and something I thought he might like… even if you don’t like our new layout. I’m sorry Dad but in today’s climate, where people my age want to wear the clothes that you were wearing when you were our age, this stuff flies.
I don’t live with my Dad, my parents split when I was nine for all the right reasons, good friends, not good couple material. But no love loss, there’s no resent or bad feelings, it’s all gravy and not that this stuff ever plays on my mind, but if it was to I should count myself lucky because I know there’s a lot of divorcees who literally despise each-other, or worse, married couples/long term couples still living together with the same feelings. Fuck that. But in short; I won’t get to see my Dad today, him living a good few hours drive away and me being inherently lazy. The sad reality is that, despite having absolutely none of those, often apparent, bad feelings between families that have broken up, I rarely see my Dad and that whole other side of the family at all. All pretty much 100% my fault for being horrendously useless at pencilling in dates and actually making the effort to go and see them. Sorry Dad. Genuinely am. In the past few months I’ve had another growth in wanting to get my priorities right, remembering dates, remembering my family, all right up there. Especially my Dad, especially when I always really enjoy myself when I go and see him. My Step Mum, Eloise, is ridiculously lovely, she’s a girl who traveled in her youth and works a busy business-like life with all sorts of interesting friends, contacts & tales to tell – always offering advice, asking friends if they can assist me in my lazy attempts to not be lazy and just generally taking a interest in who I am and what I’m about. She’s got two wicked kids, both growing up crazy fast and both possessing slick musical talents. I’m all about that. And then there’s my half sister. Sweet, sweet Jessie. Probably the furthest out of the picture of them all, again with a large bulk of blame on myself there. And she’s probably the sweetest girl I know, she’s like my dad, sister and me; relaxed to the nth degree, silly before serious and just generally massively loving and courteous. Some kids can be real dicks, real hair pullers, real ‘Does this hurt?’ers. Scream at anything they don’t like. Miscreants that probably need burying for all of eternity. But never Jessie, she’s far too old now for all of that stuff anyway but even as a tot she was always sweet, always smiling, always quietly playing and y’know… just generally being sweet.
I wasn’t supposed to write this much stuff at all but I suppose the confessions needs to role out somewhere. So long as my Dad sees it that’s what it’s all about. Enough guilty confessions and more about the man who’s day it is and what I was supposed to be revelling in:
The music I remember my Dad for.
Paul Weller – Stanley Road
Pretty sure you had this album, if not a best of. Pretty terrible start if you never had this album at all but I’m sure you did…? (I really hope you did otherwise I look like a right fucking arse.)
Anyway, me Step dad’s a pretty big fan of old Paul Weller and when I was searching for some suds (Dad talk for CDs) to fill up me new wagon I came across Stanley Road knowing for-well that it’s got a lot of the classic’s on there that I most fondly remember listening to back in your car when I was little. Back when I thought Paul Weller was black. Back when I was at an age when you know music by music, not names and pictures. Back when I didn’t have a collection of my own, didn’t care for a collection of my own, you just encounter music during your day-to-day business and considering being a kid, most of that music is going to be the music that your parents love. I actually remember consulting you on that skiing holiday with Justin & Fiona, the kids and Simon & Max, about whether Weller was black or not, whilst sat up late with you grown-ups drinking. I also remember doing some drinking. My first taste of Baileys, thinking it tasted just like Nesquik, I still do. I also remember the drinking (being 12? 13? Maybe younger?) causing dilemma between Lisa and her parents. She was a couple of years older than me and totally not allowed to drink… ahh yeah!! I’ve always felt a massive sense of pride that I was allowed a few casual beers on almost every occasion, at your clearance, for years even prior to that. Nice one Dad. Although Mum was pretty lax on all that as well to be fair, so nice one Mum as well… though she still doesn’t know about you letting me smoke that Shisha Pipe, right next to her, when I was like nine or something. Good old Turkey, so lapse in rules.
I’ve wanted a good reason to give this album some love on here over the past few weeks, even though I actually came to realize that I don’t love maybe 50% of the stuff on it. Steve having almost every Paul Weller album under the sun taught me (when I got my first iPod and crammed it full of all of my parents/step parents music) that I don’t actually like most of his music at all…
But there’s a select few that are not only a nostalgic thrill but a musical indulgence, for me, all round.
Porcelain Gods, the soft pained track above, a fine example. The rolling energy of the opening album track, The Changingman, of course, is nothing shy of another absolute winner. The wild and funky I Walk On Guilded Splinters, classic “Top Ten Love Songs Of All Time” smooth-groove You Do Something To Me (Shower time favourite of mine for many years), the Broken Stones, which I learned to play on piano way back when, the soul-singing-choir accompanied Out of the Sinking and then there’s the non-Stanley track that everyone knows and surely loves, Wild Wood. All fantastic pieces of musical engineering, combining a love for rock and soul, pulling up on an open spread of black music routes and instrumentation, so when I queried his ethnicity it’s no real surprise when considering all the subtleties of those church-pad keyboard vibes, soul-backing choir and sometimes-touching-on-the-spiritual nature of this album.
I’ll end the trip down Weller Road with a nod to my mum’s more prominent influence on myself growing up, lounge music… basically Trip-Hop, a music that accidentally blew up and ended in the laps of the middle class and pretty much everyone in the entire world. A nice spacey remix of Wild Wood from Portishead, wasn’t going to let that one go unsung.
Fun fact – My dad dated Paul Weller’s sister when they were in school, back when Paul Weller was just Paul Weller.*
Lauryn Hill – The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
Probably one of my favourite albums of all time. Again I’m treading on an unstable path because I’m not sure whether mum got this or you… but I know it lived primarily in your car… right? Well for definite I do at least know that now it lives only in your possession. Right on!
I can’t think of any specific memories associated with this album from when I was really young, I more remember returning to it, sitting in your car with you, in a car park, in Cornwall, outside a church, for poor Grandma Joy. Though despite the sombre feeling of the day, we were somewhere beautiful. The sun was shining and I remember a pretty incredible view of rolling green hills and dappled woodland. And then that swelling feeling, a love for coming back to a music that was such an integral part of your childhood, after so many years, that was ridiculously hard to contain. I love this album. This album came home with me and got played to friends for weeks. I even did a horrible mash-up of Lost Ones with a KOAN Sound track that, at the time, I thought was genius. I can’t say that the tracks don’t go well together, listening back they sound pretty sick together… just can’t say I love the KOAN Sound track as much as I used to. Though I can’t fault their production… absolute nutters.
But that mix being a stark contrast between the modern over-drive, heavily bro-step influenced Glitch-Hop mentality of KOAN Sound (credible pioneers of the genre though they are) versus the soft raw yard feel of Lauryn’s loose, soulful Latino/African American with reggae roots dressing, original glitch-free hip-hop. The whole album of which is available and well worth a listen to here.
Despite having the whole album at your fingertips there, though, I still want to give special shouts to people’s classic, Doo Wop (That Thing), the un-mashed original funk-star banger, Lost Ones, favourite of good friend Ed-Dudwey Smif, Zion, favourite of mine for a bus groove with old friend Scarlet, Superstar, hip-hop realist, Final Hour and to be honest… the whole album; Forgive Them Father, Everything is Everything, I Used to Love Him… I think I literally am just going to end up naming all of the tracks so I’ll just stop there.
And from that you should get the gist. The whole thing is pure gold.
But I’ll end on my favourite note of them all…
Fun fact – My Dad once dated Lauryn Hill when they were in school together. Unfortunately my dad had too many sick bars and Lauryn just couldn’t contend with his lyrical flow, ending it rather ungraciously at the Summer Ball by kissing Paul Weller on stage in front of the whole school. Bitch.
Also I’m sorry about that ‘lyrics on screen :D’ video, despite being a beautiful track there’s shit-all uploads of it and that was the only one I could find of a decent quality. Just close your eyes and listen instead…
On with the show.
The Manic Street Preachers – Know Your Enemy
Don’t know that you had any other Preachers in the collection before this, the sixth album release? It’s interesting that I’m doing this whole memory lane music/birthday post now because I recently read a fucking awesome write-up (I think in an NME mag) and interview on their Holy Bible album as a part of a 20 year anniversary since its release. And in that article I learned that this band was the fucking tits. Horrendously controversial & depressed guys. And Welsh to top it off. I love the Welsh. I love that one of the band members, pretty much the life-blood of the whole operation, disappeared in ’95, forever. Just completely disappeared. How awesome is that!? I can’t really explain what happened because I only read the article once and my only knowledge of the Preachers prior to said article was this album that I only had in my possession years ago when I was like nine or ten or something and I didn’t have it long… I borrowed it from my Dad… and then someone (not me. Not a joke, genuinely wasn’t me) trod on it… and the disc broke… and thus he never got it back.
But yeah these guys wore all this military gear that they’d pick up from Army & Navy stores, in some sort of rebellion to the militant oppression of our societal structure and I don’t know. It sounded a lot more complicated and not a cliché when they said it. These guys were writing about some really core stuff in their early career and it wasn’t stuff that people were supposed to talk about. Loads of it was based on Anorexia because one of the key members (guitarist and main lyricists), Richie Edwards (the guy who fucked off), was a fluctuating anorexic and there were stabs at American culture, government design, global economics, it goes on. Basically they dug right under the skin of all the lies that people tell themselves every day, lies to ignore the fact that the life we’ve structured for ourselves, especially in the “civilized”/”developed” world is just as barbaric as it was hundreds of years ago, we just commit our crimes from a distance now, at least that was the idea. Of course when I borrowed the album I knew nothing of any of that, I just thought the music kicked ass. Though critiques would say that by 2001 and three albums on from the 1994 Holy Bible, these guys had lost their original punk-propaganda drive and had fallen more punk-pop-propaganda…
Funny considering how their underground success and revere all stems from their outright distaste for the commercial blanket of the world. Perhaps without Richey, and his genuinely ‘Manic’ temperament, it was all too easy to get suckered in to the gloss of success. It wasn’t until this album and the fifth in ’85, This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours, that these guys truly blew up in the commercial world. Which makes me feel pretty guilty giving this album the shouts on this blog where as really it should be their earlier works. But that’s not what this post is about, it’s about the music associate with me Dad. And that’s this album.
Though after having had a flick through the tracks, the only one I actually recognize is the first track… In fact I don’t think I ever truly listened to the whole album at all. I specifically remember hearing this track and loving it and asking to borrow the album and then I definitely enjoyed that track, and a couple of the other ones for a few weeks, not really getting the rest, and then it broke. Same can be said now to be honest. A few real good cuts of meat in their among some Co-Op’s own stuff… Now I’m definitely feeling even more guilty about borrowing this album. I didn’t even like it that much.
I think the whole association with you and this album, and band, was with the guilt I felt and kind of still feel, for borrowing this album and letting it get broken. As opposed to the album’s content itself. Still, there was gold in there that sealed the doomed deal and here it fucking is…
If you want to delve deeper, however, into the Preachers much darker 90s past then get all over this interview with the remaining band members on The Holy Bible here. It’s only part one of four and is only a gentle nine minutes long, enough to show you whether you’re interested or not and is enough of an insight into the album that you might choose to fiend for the next coming weeks.
Fun Fact – A lot of fans still believe that the disappearance of Richie Edwards was due to a deep set resentment for Lauryn’s behavior at the Summer Ball.
Stereophonics – Just Enough Education to Perform
More depressed Welsh boys highlighting the woes of western life. My dad loves sad Welshmen. And so do I. Though arguably the Stereophonics spin their sighs in a much more satirical and light-hearted fashion than the Preachers.
My love for the Stereophonics, today, is in their ability to turn the every-day into a sad observation, utilising their Brit-Pop style almost as a part of the running joke. It’s modest topics with a serious and dark centre, with Just Enough Education To Perform having a heavy focus on the less fortunate in life. The mundane characters that make up the numbers who struggle just as much as the rest. In their later career these guys slopped into the same pool as most do but if there’s one thing Kelly Jones and his strained husky voice can be credited to is never failing to make a sad song. If their material over time went a bit too pop, if you gave the albums a chance you were still sure to come across something stripped with Kelly’s grating pain all over you, hairs unable to resist standing on upset ends as a cold chill roles down your sad spine. And it’s there that he works his most powerful magic.
My love for the Stereophonics, back in the day, however, was more in driving around Cornwall, Dad at the wheel and me 89 times out of 100, as the eldest, sat next to him in the passenger seat… rocking out. Just Enough Education To Perform being another childhood winner that I revisited a few years later, once I had that iPod, on a trip to Turkey (or Greece, sorry Turks & Greeks, your countries are very similar), again with Justin & Fiona. And I remember a specific night after a meal at some local school? With lots of dancing and local music, on our way home getting everyone to join me in rocking-out to the album version of Vegas Two Times. Excitedly rewinding the track and inserting a single headphone into the ear of anyone close to me. Not sure if you remember that? I remember Justin heartily agreeing that it was one to rock to, anyway. I also remember sitting with him and you on the balcony drinking beers, discussing a lost flip-flop and how a mouse had probably taken it in and made a little shelter out of it. Anyway, here’s that Vegas track in all its studio-recording, choral rising intro glory…
This entire album still is a treasure to me, Lying In The Sun (a song from the eyes of a homeless man), Step On My Old Size Nines, Nice To Be Out, Maybe (not Tomorrow… not that that isn’t a winner as well.) and so on. Me and my girlfriend, as mentioned in the Valleys rendition of the Tuesday Chart, recently did a Caravan Holiday (I know right!? That’s one of the songs on the album!) in Wales and this album was all I wanted to listen to, it was almost surprising how the Welsh music complimented the Welsh landscape. We’d listened to all sorts but the only two that really felt right were Stereophonics and Calibre, whose Irish influence over his beautiful liquid drum & bass was the only one capable of making electronic music work in the lush green and rocky landscape. So much so did this album work in our surroundings that I felt almost let down that we had been given an apartment instead of an actual caravan… even though we’d booked a caravan… still not sure how we ended up with that apartment.
But yeah Dad, thanks for making this album a part of my life.
I also know you’re a lover of the Foo’s Dad, so here’s Kelly in his element, turning the Best of You from heart-felt rock anthem into heart-string-tugger, the magic I love him most for.
Fun Fact – After the disastrous death of Kurt Cobain, whose downward spiral of depression was also linked to the events of the Summer Ball, it was thought that Dave Grohl wrote Best Of You, in the following Foo Fighting years, in memory of Kurt and Kurt’s feelings towards that fateful night, something that Kelly Jones, as a big fan of my Dad’s early mix-tapes, wanted to add to in this beautiful cover.
It’s true that there were many albums whilst I was growing up that I could throw at you, but I’m trying to hit the most prominent on the head. The most memorable. And I couldn’t finish off the list without one last gem…
Robbie fucking Williams.
I shouldn’t be embarrassed to say it because the guy was such a massive part of my musical childhood and literally was my favourite artist for years, prior to actually getting into music on a personal level and even in a fair few of the years to follow. But yes, me and my Dad were Robbie fans. My Dad even played football with the guy at one point in a five-a-side or something (actual true Fun Fact, the one about Paul Weller’s sister is also true… the other stuff… loosely based on facts), he was a friend of a friend I believe. It also deserves a mention that Dad was often likened to Robbie in appearance, nothing wrong about that. They’re both short and somewhat handsome.
But man aside and music at hand; I’m not sure if he just had the first album and then got the second one because I “rocked out” to his music (man I can just feel people cringing so much already… yes you can “rock out” to Robbie all right? You can rock out hard!) or whether he was still into it at this point and bought it because he genuinely liked it I don’t know. Come Escapology (the fourth album) though, the love was dying and pretty much everything after that album was awful. I think he got a new producer, from what I remember you (dad) saying… I think?
Anyway, my Robbie love was really because of Life Thru A Lens and I’ve Been Expecting You. These two albums are undoubtedly my most prominent musical memories of childhood. I was five when Life Thru A Lens came out. I was six when I’ve Been Expecting You emerged. Just the mention of them, just the mention of ‘Robbie’ screams ‘Dad’ at me. These two albums were almost the entire soundtrack to the youth that I can remember. Aside from Bob Marley and drips and drabs of various compilations, this is the earliest music that I can remember and the earliest music that I remember being yours. I have solid freeze-framed images captured and cherished in my mind that I can associate with these tracks, primarily of Cornwall. Obscure images like being on a turning circle in some caravan site making a mental note of trying to remember the words to Man Machine. Driving through a Cornish town at night, right on the coast, a little road with parked cars either side, grey wall between us and the shore on our left and rows of multicoloured B&B style houses to our right. Listening back on this stuff genuinely makes me think ‘I love you Dad’. Not in a stupid way, in a genuine ‘you’re the best’ way. A fond way. We loved singing along to Jesus In A Campervan, cruising to Strong and just generally enjoying all of the featured tracks on both albums. There was even room for Me and My Monkey in the later years. I suppose the soft-pop-rock/Brit-rock just massively appealed to my young brain. This is pretty much Brit-Pop at its best though surely? I can’t say I’m not nodding along and enjoying cycling through this old bag of treats. I’d go as far as saying ‘I’m loving it’. And in honour of my past, my Dad and nostalgia, here’s one of those winners we used to love so much.
Rock on Robbie… rock on…
And as for you Dad, well who could ask for one better? Whoever they are, they’re not me. I love you Dad, you’re weird and fun like me, a cynical sceptic like me, a waffler like me, soft like me. But you’ve got more adventure in you than me, or at least, you let your adventure out where as I keep mine in. I’ve got fucking loads of the stuff in me and I look at you for inspiration in the things you have done and regret not doing and now are doing. Like still skiing relentlessly and being mad into Kite Boarding which is fucking awesome, who else’s Dad’s a Kite Boarder? Other than my cousins… whose Dad is one of your eldest friends and got you into it… and Martin (also an old friend)’s kids… No one that’s who!! At least no one else I’ve come across and I know you think I probably don’t have too much interest in it but I genuinely do and I’m always proud to tell people about it. And they’re always like “What? Man that’s so cool! You’re dad does kite boarding!” I’m proud of you all over Dad, you’re one of the most caring Dads out there. One of the most caring people out there. I know most “men” don’t care about caring, “lads” look up to a hard nutter of a dad who’ll smash anyone for so much as breathing at them wrong. Proper “fellas” that get fucked every weekend because they’re still a “proper geezer!” You still get horrendously drunk when you want to, and it’s hilarious, never aggressive, just ridiculous. And I love it. I know you’re not a fighter. And that makes me love you even more. I love you because you’re not some hard nutter, because you do care, because you are a kind person and the world needs to have more kind people in it other wise what’s the point? I know that bands like the Manic Street Preachers would never exist without so much awful material to draw on, but ‘cult classic’ as they are, we shouldn’t need such a hollow existence to inspire our best art, we should have cult classics born out of something more, something that is built out of people made of the same stuff that you are. You’re a good soul and through that you taught me to be a good soul, as best I can be anyway. And I can only try harder. I will try harder.
This has taken me four hours to write and I can’t be doing a proof read before I post this so I’m sorry for all the spelling/grammar errors that I’m sure will be speckled here and there. Also if things are incoherent. I’ll come back and do a second tidy later.
But for now…
Happy Birthday Dad.
promise I’ll see you soon.
*Actually true. The other fun facts are all a bunch of filthy lies.