Happy new year!

Hmm, we’ve already somehow made it to 2nd January without me posting my traditional HNY message. Normally I’d cue up a post to automatically appear at midnight, but my word, 2020 was such an embarrassment that I don’t think anything needed to be said at the time, and I’m pretty sure people had more things to do than read my bletherings at the stroke of midnight.

So, yeah. I’ve decided that I’m not going to follow up my 2020 posting with another one, as to be honest, I’d have struggled to say anything. the whole year is best forgotten if I’m honest. Onto a bit of musical statistics now.

2020 is the first year that my music collection has shrunk It’s hardly surprising, however, as I’ve barely been out of the house, but approximately 632 CDs / records were added to the collection, with 836 taken to the charity shops (or are waiting to be taken when they reopen). This is a trend I intend to continue into this year.

Right, so that’s it for now. Have yourselves a good one no matter what you’re up to.

2020. Oh. (Part 1 maybe)

“The year in review” is a post that I’d write anually, going through some of the highlights of the particular year that we’re about to leave behind, and maybe pick up on some of the highlights that weren’t covered by the blog. Many, many people would quite happily sit down and write this off as the worst year on record, me included, so just for fun, I’m going to go through this year with the palest rose-tinted spectacles imaginable, sift through the excrement and see if I canpick out a golden nugget of sweetcorn that makes me think, and you, my dear reader, that 2020 wasn’t all bad.

JANUARY

Yep, so there it is. Exactly midnight. I can confirm I brought in the new year filming my watch on my phone. I think this was about as rock and roll as it got. January 2nd saw our bin not getting emptied because someone had dumped a black sack into our recycling bin. But wait! January 3rd made me discover a culinary delight…

Roasties Butty Day… the day where I went to Fast Snacks for a chip butty, only to find out they didn’t have any chips. What? Turns out that roasties in a bun, plus a bit of curry sauce over them is actually pretty awesome. Sadly, I didn’t get a photo of them so you’ll just have to use your imagination.

January 11th saw a trip to Betterzade, the record shop in Northallerton. I think I managed to get there twice this year, maybe three times? Other shops were involved too, of course. And I con’t care how old I get, doing this is still funny, and always will be…

Turns out I was predicting the future there, and it turns out 2020 was an absolute BF H of a year.

January 18th appears to be the day I started playing Pokemon Go again, thanks to the new phone. This has genuinely been the only thing keeping me sane in the last 12 months. I didn’t realise it’d been that long.

January 25th saw one of only two music gigs in the entire year, at Newcastle for Insomnium.   Really enjoyed this night. I think, by this time, rumours of the pandemic had just started to circle No concern at this point, obviously.

Insomnium, at the Riverside, Newcastle, 25th January 2020
Conjurer supporting.

FEBRUARY 2020

So far, my one and only trip to PLAY BREW in Middlesbrough, barring a brief stop during the easing of lockdown. A nice little “micro brewery” in the middle of an industrial estate in Middlesbrough.

This was a good night out, which ultimately ended in Loons, which is standard for a night out. Little did I know this was the only time I’d be in this establishment this year. 

The weather was a little stormy around this time, with Storm Ciara whipping the sea up and keeping me awake. No sooner had Storm Ciara dissipated, Storm Dennis moved in.

Storm Dennis

I bought a motherboard from Jamie o allow me to upgrade the Mean Green Ripping machine. It’s not mean and it’s not green, but at least it’s got a new motherboard. I also stuck an SSD up its grundle, and it runs like an absolute dream. Its a shame that I’ve hardly had chance to use it. I typed this on 25th February…

In other news, the mean green ripping machine is complete. I might have to pick up a wireless dongle for it though as it’s a bit of a pain dragging that 15 metre cable through the house. Probably should have got one when I was at Falcon [Cmputers, in Sunderland], but then I didn’t know that the one I had for it was complete rot.

Talking about complete rot, my foot flared up again, Turns out there was another infection on it which required different antibiotics to what I’d had in the past

My foot wasn’t the only thing getting infected, as the “entire world” was starting to get infected with COVID-19. The news of this bloody virus spread throughout the world, and cases began to rise. It was clear that a lockdown was inevitable. Thankfully, this didn’t happen quite yet, and I was able to attend one final gig in Newcastle. It became clear, however, that having so many people in such a small area is something that was not going to happen anymore


The month ended with the only Hartlepool record fair, where I ended up smashing a record 30 seconds after getting it home. Unbelieveable. This was on the leap day.

It was a particularly windy day too as I found out to my cost too. I picked up a particularly cheesy single for 66p. I got it home, took it out the back to take a photo of it, and it blew off the wheely bin, blew across the garden and snapped in half on a chair. Wounded.

MARCH

Word had began to circulate that we might have to start working from home. It was only a rumour, however, and for at least, for the beginning of the month, the world continued as normal, except that the paranoia started to kick in, especially when on the bus. The sound of every cough and sneeze being amplified. The grime etched into the stop buttons becoming even more noticeable.

The most exciting time of the year so far happened when the fluorescent “circline” tube in the front room died. It became mercury starved… for environmental reasons, the amount of mercury vapour in fluorescent tubes has been reduced. Over time, the mercury vapour that is in the tube seeps into the glass, meaning that over time, there’s no ultraviolet light formed to excite the phosphor on the inside of the tube, meaning the tube essentially dies by lighting a very dull pink. This had happened over the period of a few weeks, until the light output “fell off a cliff” so I’d already ordered a new tube in preparation. Surprisingly the first time I’ve fitted one of those tubes.

March 7th saw the last day out before lockdown, as i got the bus to Durham. I discovered there was more than one record stall in the indoor market. This would be my last record purchase until the summer, which is just as well, as it contained The Krankies’ “Fan Dabi Dozi”.

March 17 saw the beginning of the end. Shops were starting to run out of the essentials… even Iceland had ran out of eggs.

March 18 was the last time I’d be in the office, and March 19 was my first full day working from home. Initally, I didn’t like it….

It’s pretty lonely sat here. I’ve had Talk Sport blasting for most of the day just for the sound of someone else’s voice. Daddykins was downstairs for most of the day, so I could at least say stuff to him, but even then, he’s buggered off upstairs, so I’m left with this laptop. I’m getting sick of talk sport, so I can’t even listen to it anymore.

And that’s where I’m going to leave Part 1. We’re deep into lockdown by this point, and I’m going to need to do some proper research if I’m going to pad it out enough for a Part 2…

Day 8 – Now That’s What I Call Music! 20

So, apparently I took the whole of July off, but don’t worry, I’m still perservering with this! Maybe I’ll have the last two typed up by the time the lockdown officially ends… assuming this blog is still going in 2028.

Well, we’re still in 1991, folks. After all, these are albums that shaped my music tastes, so I guess they have to be early on in the collection.

Let’s fast-forward a few months to Xmas of that same year. This was the last truly great xmas, as it was the last one I had with my mam. Also, the pick of prezzies I got that year were pretty amazing. Santa’s sack really must have been bulging that year.

Two main presents in this particular year… a Commodore 64 (yes, I’m aware I arrived very late to that particular party!) and finally, a hi-fi I could call my own! Something a lot more modern than the ancient thing I’d been using earlier on in the year. Thanks to the wonderment of the internet, I managed to find an image of that exact same hifi.

I had to lift the image off Gumtree, so apologies if the seller ever finds this site, but as you can see, it was an Alba jobby. It’s meant to look like all the parts are separate, but they’re not, they’re all moulded into one front cover. The speakers (not pictured) were the same height as the unit, and connected at the back via 3.5mm jacks, and there were two phono jacks for an auxiliary input. These would become useful later on.

I absolutely adored this thing. It wasn’t without its quirks, however. It had a very basic remote, which allowed volume up / down, and I genuinely think that was it. Everything else featured manual moving parts. At some point during this hi-fi’s life, we switched over from incandescent light bulbs to the early compact fluorescents. The slight issue was that they gave off light at the same frequency as the volume up / down control, so you’d turn the light on, and the volume would go right down to none. Therefore, the remote sensor ended up with a sticker over it for most of its life.

Although the tuner says “digital” on it, it wasn’t. It was still an analogue dial, with the readout given on an LED display. It didn’t come with a CD player – that got added the following year. Maybe that’s a story for parts 9 or 10… who knows?

This was a hi-fi built at a cost, and obviously 30 years later, it really does show, but being able to play records and takes, and listen to the radio, was all that mattered to me.

This was the first of the “Now!” albums to use the familiar style of logo. At the time of typing, we’re into the Now 100’s, and they’re still using a version of this. The font changed when they broke the 100 barrier, but it’s essentially the same.

I could sit and write the list out of what tracks are on there, but there’s 40 of them. Instead, I’ll just pick out the real gems… or at least the ones I like. Music is subjective, so you might agree, you might not.

Let’s start off with Side 1, Track 1… “Dizzy” by Vic Reeves and the Wonderstuff. a perfect remake to me…. nothing like the original, and this was also one of my early 7″ singles, given to me by my aunty. I’m sure I mentioned in here before that Chad taped over the first 30 seconds of this with the “Grease” soundtrack. He doesn’t remember, but I do! Actually, this has just triggered a really weird memory I can’t have been in senior school long, and there was some type of assembly going on, probably doubling up as a talent show., with some of the older kids dancing around to this, complete with cardboard “washing machine” props. For some reason, I always remember these props hanging around in a store cupboard somewhere (probably where they kept the basketballs as the gym was right next door), long after they’d served their one and only purchase.

Er, onto “Pet Shop Boys – Where The Streets Have No Name (Can’t Take My Eyes Off You)”. At the time, I didn’t even know this was a remake, never mind a parody of a U2 song. I thought this was great, and still do. I recently bought the extended version of “Behaviour” which has the extended version of this on. Still a cracking, if slightly obscure and forgotten track these days.

“Love To Hate You” and “Sailing On the Seven Seas are both cracking tracks too.

“Something Got Me Started” by Simply Red is a song that was a grower. I hated it when I first heard it. Now, I quite like it. I don’t think it’d ever make my dream jukebox, but I wouldn’t change the channel if it came on the radio. “Let’s Talk About Sex”, on the other hand, is to me, one of the worst songs ever recorded. I’d jump out of a two-storey window if that ever came on the radio in my presence. OK, slight exaggeration, but I really dislike this song.

To this day, I’m surprised of the inclusion of “Gett Off” by Prince. Considering these albums are ained towards the younger audience, some of those lyrics are a bit… “close”, shall we say? I remember being fascinated by the fact they reversed the “big ass” portion of the lyric, so it just sounded weird.

“Get Ready For This” by 2 Unlimited was the standout track for me. this was the one I looked at on Christmas Morning, and went “YES!” Or so I presume. I guess this was the most played song on this side.

This side finished with Moby’s “Go”, and the amazing “It’s Grim Up North” by the band usually known as KLF. This would have been a perfect tune to finish this side on, as it fades to therelaxing sound of birdsong, but no, they stuck “Set Adrift on Memory Bliss” on the end of it. Not a great song, but I knew of this before I knew of “True” by Spandau Ballet, so my mind was blown when I realised it heavily used a sample.

Turn the tape over, and you’re onto song #6 before there’s anything that’s remotely worth typing about. “Too Many Walls” by Cathy Dennis. I liked this particular track, and it was my first experience of her music. She now writes songs for other people, having many more chart hits this way.

“This House” by Alison Moyet was a dreary, forgettable song, instantly followed by “Walking In Memphis” by Marc Cohn. Another song I’d never heard before playing it on here. Lovely, clear lyrics. Great piano playing. If you held a gun to my head, I’d blast this out on karaoke…… without hesitation. I did always wonder this, though… “The lyrics, “Walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale” refers to Beale Street, an actual street in Memphis. Riley B. King became known as the “Beale Street Blues Boy” shortly after he first arrived in Memphis. Later, the nickname was shortened to B.B., and the rest is history.”. I’ll