Bitesize! S-Club 7

Insidious things, oldies radio stations. You tune in with the harmless intention of soundtracking your working day, hoping for a little Carl Perkins here, a dash of The Animals there, a sprinkling of The Walker Brothers all over, only to find yourself the victim of heretical thoughts such as, “actually, Bachman Turner Overdrive really weren’t that bad”. Once in a while though they drag up a lump of coal from the stygian gloom of the past, give it a swift polish, et voila: a priceless diamond. Good people, suspend your cynicism for two minutes while I present to you the rather immense, S-Club 7.

There was a time I was ironically proud of being able to name all of S-Club 7. Their cheeky winning drama school smiles illuminated seemingly every Saturday morning kids programme and rekindled my fondness for manufactured bands. A love affair begun in the early 70’s with the weekly appearance of The Partridge Family and nurtured during school holiday reruns of The Monkees and The Doubledeckers. OK, I know The Doubledeckers weren’t actually a band, but containing, as they did, a future member of Aswad, they count. Even without recourse to Allmusic I find I can still remember six Sclubbers, including two surnames!

However, unlike The Monkees, S-Club 7 product was always unlikely to grace my record collection. I appreciated what the Italia Conti Academy of acting had done for these young tykes but the likes of It’s An S-Club Thing and Two In A Million were never going to shift Bikini Girls With Machine Guns by The Cramps from the turntable.

And then in 2001 Lux and Ivy were forced to step aside. Armed with a vocoder and one of those rhythms that seems designed to practice CPR to, The 7 momentarily conquered the nation. As autumn crept over the country,  grizzled veterans of a thousand London pubs, clubs and live venues were to be found glaring at each other with the astonishment of trench artillerymen hearing the armistice klaxon. “By crikey, they’ve done it, they’ve really done it!”

The anthrax infectious Don’t Stop Moving proved to be one of those landmark records by which, like it or not, you map out your past, and which gradually transcends the world of criticism and just… is. I have, for example, no idea whether Bill Withers Lovely Day is a good song or not, but when the sunlight hits my eyes I’ll be singing along regardless. Yes, occasionally I DO feel like a room without a roof, but I now know that Pharrell Williams will always be there to clap along with me. Yes, I was the black sheep of my family and although my Dad tried to teach me right from wrong you may well ask how, with too much wine and too much song, I got along. Easy – I had Terry Jacks to show me the way.

So good people, forget about your fears tonight and listen to your heart. See that uncoordinated guy on the dancefloor? The one dancing behind Hannah, Jon, Paul, Jo, Tina, Bradley and the other one? Well that’s me and I’m NEVER going to stop moving to that funky, funky beat.


By The Time I Get To Phoenix – Isaac Hayes and the greatest chord change in history.

In his 2005 book, Like A Rolling Stone, Greil Marcus essays a theory that the single snare beat that introduces Dylan’s masterpiece of spleen and sarcasm opens a kind of musical Pandora’s box, paving the way for all of rock’s innovation to come, from The Beatles yea unto The Pet Shop Boys. Apparently. Not only that, it was also the percussive fanfare that heralded the swinging 60’s, flower power, the Vietnam war, the space age, neo-liberalism, the internet and reality TV. Or something. It’s often a little difficult to keep up with yer man Marcus. However I think I managed to grasp the central conceit that everything Bob had achieved up to that point was condensed into a single moment producing a cultural big bang.

It’s Bob.


As Dr Stephen Hawking says in The Simpsons, your theory of a donut shaped universe intrigues me Homer, I may have to steal it.

Naturally, Greil, whilst well intentioned, had it hopelessly wrong. Right idea but four years too early.

A world away from Bob Dylan’s bohemian New York, Memphis (home of Elvis and the ancient Greeks), Tennesse to be exact, Jim Stewart and Estelle Axton’s Stax label had spent the 1960’s… well, being Stax really. By simply doing their thing and getting on with it, the label had soundtracked the decade as adroitly as any number of Blowin’ In The Winds. Due, in no small part, to the songwriting team of David Porter and Isaac Hayes – the Memphis Goffin and King. Always assuming of course that you’re willing to imagine Carole King saying things like you put the hurt on me, Mamma.

Having built up a breathtaking back catalogue with the likes of Sam and Dave, William Bell and Carla Thomas, the Stax wheels then came off in spectacular fashion. If the death of their most iconic star, Otis Redding, in 1967 wasn’t enough, a year later their distribution deal with Atlantic came to an end leaving the New York label with the rights to all Stax recordings.

Not being one to hang around moping, executive vice president Al Bell simply ordered his charges to record a new batch of classics, turning first of all to in house songwriter and producer Ike Hayes. This was by no means the no-brainer it sounds. Ike’s solo debut had flopped embarrassingly and being a prudent, circumspect soul he was in no great measure as keen to re-enter the spotlight as the later recording of such classics as Chocolate Salty Balls might lead you to believe.

Ike gave it some thought. Stax was known predominently for its singles output but Ike bridled somewhat at the suggestion that black audiences were only good for hanging round the jukebox in the nearest roadhouse. The core demographic that had paid the Stax rent these last years was, he reasoned, capable of a little more sophistication. Ike laid down the law. He may even have put the hurt on a few mammas. Total control. Over content, arrangements and of course production. Un production d’Ike. This would be his Sergeant Pepper. Sort of.

The result of course was the towering behemoth that is Hot Buttered Soul.

Bursting into life with his staggering version of Walk On By, Ike sets out his stall and it’s a stall that will be trading in melodrama, grandiosity, angst and downright cissy-struttin’ funkyness. Where Dionne Warwick warbles stylishly, Isaac Hayes wails his pain, building up to a crescendo of soul-searching with the confession that (you guessed it brothers and sisters) you put the hurt on me Mamma. In between choruses The Bar-Kays bring it down abruptly with some deep, deep, deep reverb guitar that, for some reason, always reminds me of the bit in Apocalypse Now when the sniper is shooting the guy off the bridge.

Next up, the preposterously titled Hyperbolicsyllabicsesquedalymistic turns down the heartache and ups the funk quota whilst overlooked side 2 opener the relentlessly optimistic One Woman strays admirably into the territory occupied by Gladys Knight. And there you have it.

But wait, how to fill the remaining 18 minutes of side 2? Are you ever in for a treat boys and girls.

Since Ray Charles recorded Georgia On My Mind in 1960 the idea of cross-pollinating genres had become perfectly acceptable. So it was really a shock to no one that an artist like Isaac Hayes would tackle Jimmy Webb’s geography defying country anthem By The Time I Get To Phoenix. What was surprising was how he transformed it from a tale of wistful melancholia to a mind-expanding cultural event. Choosing to take a prequal approach to the song, Ike begins by filling in the story before our hero legs it in the (very rough) direction of Oklahoma. This he does in the style of a declaiming preacher getting old testament on our collective skinny white ass. A role backed up by a single church organ note, played without pause. Or perceptible change in volume. Or change in vibrato. FOR EIGHT MINUTES! After 30 seconds you’re thinking mmm, ecclesiastical. After two minutes you’re considering shifting the needle along a bit. After five minutes you’ve lost the power of free will, labouring with a thousand yard stare and under the illusion that you’ve morphed into a giant insect.

But Ike knew what he what doing. The tension builds up so that after eight minutes it’s a massive relief when the song proper kicks in and he makes it as far as Arizona. What Ike had been doing all along was delivering a state of the nation address.  His tale of love gone sour was the story of post-war America.

If sunny side up doo-wop was the soundtrack to the optimistic Kennedy years, the national loss of innocence that came with Johnson and the looming spectre of Nixon needed something darker.

She’ll laugh when she reads the part that says I’m leaving, ‘cos I’ve left that girl so many times before. Regular readers will recall that I’m not much of a lyric man but that line just slays me. Twenty words, only two of them longer that one syllable, that savage both parties. The one for being fickle and capricious, the other for failing to take that caprice seriously. This wasn’t just some dude leaving his lady (as I believe cats used to call their chicks back then) but a country questioning their leader. A leader with a self-satisfied smirk who can’t believe that the proles would ever question his authority. An establishment that knows it can’t stop change but continues to send in the national guard with batons drawn. This, to be sure, was putting the hurt on me. Mamma.

And as Ike reminds us, she just didn’t know I would really go.

It’s Ike.

He could of course have left the song to fade satisfyingly at this point and it would still have been a major musical milestone. But no, Ike realised that somewhere around 1992 a muscularly challenged East Midlander with dodgy hearing would discover his magnum opus and need not only lyrical but also sonic persuasion.

Welding a magnificent coda to a work of almost perfect execution, he anticipates, by some 40 years, Wikipedia’s definition of a coda as “technically, an expanded cadence”, by technically expanding the shit out his cadence. Strings swell, percussion rumbles and horns do whatever it is they do as the song builds and builds to a colossal tsunami of emotion. And then it hits you. At precisely 11 minutes and 31 seconds the world, musically, politically, culturally, shifts on its axis as The Bar-Kays shift key with the fluid ease of a young bream being released from a net into the River Spey. It’s the sound of Dr Dave Bowman in the previous year’s 2001, entering a technicolour hyperspace. And in the summer of 1969 it’s the sound of Apollo 11 landing on the moon, not the glory of Armstrong’s giant leap but the sad resignation of Michael Collins stranded in the command module. It’s the sound of the senseless, bloody slaughter at Hamburger Hill and Nixon’s knee-jerk reaction to introduce the draft lottery. It’s the sound of the police wading in to break up the Stonewall riots and ultimately being defeated by L.O.V.E love, brothers and sisters. It’s UCLA sacking Angela Davies for daring to have a voice. It’s the sound of Young America waking up and shouting “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not gonna take this anymore”.

I’ve been listening to Hot Buttered Soul for over 25 years now and that chord change gets me every time. My skin tingles, I shush the family quiet as I hear it approaching. I get glassy-eyed and barely hear my daughter ask “Dad, 1969 really was the heaviest year, wasn’t it?”

Two years later Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder made black lives matter even more conspicuously with What’s Going On and Where I’m Coming From respectively. But let’s not forget that it was Isaac Hayes that did it first, did it baddest and did it best.



We’re all fans of The Fall so with the untimely passing of Mark E. Smith we’re all mourning buckets right now.

I long ago let go of my dream to play for Leicester City and with the passing of the years and the emergence of no obvious talent, the possibility of the Booker prize or an Oscar seem increasingly remote. Now I’m forced to lay to one side my ambition to play in The Fall. A daydream which, if a little far fetched, was at least always statistically possible given the baffling number of bandmates Smith went through during his career. A revolving door policy which made Art Blakey and Jerry Garcia appear to be positively dependable employers.

Truth be told I was never the obsessive fan that friends and, notably, former bandmates were, but like a long running soap opera (a similie which I don’t use carelessly) they were a band I checked up on periodically, always meaning to spend more time on but never quite getting around to it.

Shamefully I only ever saw them twice, but one of those gigs rates among my top 5 for the sheer joy of seeing Mark E smirking throughout due to the unabashed enthusiasm of support band Elastica, pogoing behind the drummer.

It’s both routine and polite to say of recently deceased artists that they were a one off and we’ll never see their like again. For once this is true. The Fall weren’t in any way the sum total of the band members influences. They were of course the warped nightmarish vision of one man and quite simply no one else on Earth could possibly have spent their youth listening to Link Wray and Can and then combined them to create records like Hex Enduction Hour and The Infotainment Scan.

The Fall, for my generation at least, were a part of the landscape and indeed life itself that you just didn’t question. Like Marmite and Terry Wogan, everyone had an opinion on them and even if that opinion wasn’t always complimentary, you couldn’t deny its cultural influence. Everywhere you looked, everywhere you listened,, The Fall would rear their snaggle toothed head.

Not since John Peel died have I felt like a period of my youth has been lost and it seems unthinkable that there’ll be no more Fall albums.



Cry, Cry, Cry – 5 moments of rock’n’roll humiliation

During a social media sabbatical lasting several weeks my only regular visit to WordPress has been for Geoff Stephen’s relentlessly entertaining Sunday brunch pop quiz
Fellow addicts will be aware that Geoff celebrates each weeks artist with a top 5 list, so to channel my inner Geoff I feel duty bound to present the five most arse-clenchingly embarrassing incidents from my five plus decades attempt to live a life in rock’n’roll. Peel slowly… and weep.

5: Mojo Not Working. Failing to burn, burn, burn like a fabulous roman candle. With The Incredible Jimmy Smith. I’ve been guilty over the years of missing out on seeing dozens of outstanding artists by choosing to wash my hair/do the laundry/watch Prisoner Cell Block H instead. Happily, one occasion where I failed to be as lethargic as usual resulted in getting to see Jimmy Smith, master of the Hammond organ and mod-jazz icon before he died. Bizarrely, in the cellar of a former North London carpet warehouse.

But as luck would (or wouldn’t) have it the cavernous surroundings merely pandered to my beatnik jazz fantasies, honed during teens and early twenties spent manfully trying to enjoy Kerouac. Jimmy steamed, wailed and preached. I drank, smoked and convinced myself that I was surrounded by heavenly beat bodies scorching the night with their fiery comet trail of spontaneity and inspiration. And that I was one of them.

Such was the strength of my alcohol fuelled self-belief that upon seeing the drummer enjoying a quiet moment at the bar between sets it seemed perfectly natural that he would want to hear everything, and I mean everything, on my mind. Grabbing him urgently by the sleeve I proceeded to babble, emote, wave my arms about and generally froth at the mouth on subjects as diverse as Brother Jack McDuff and space travel before being brought up short with the words “sorry man, I can’t understand a fucking word you’re saying”. Not to be deterred, I attempted to prove my beat worthiness by leaping up on a table with a hearty “orooni!” momentarily forgetting the low ceiling and further adding to the headache which was surely awaiting me the morning after.

What a tosser.

4: That’s me in the corner, getting free beer from some english guy. Failing to buy a round for one of REM. After four years living in London I had, by both luck and judgement, collected to my heaving bosom a number of american friends most of whom had unwisely suggested “hey, if you’re ever in the States look me up”. Calling their collected bluff I decided in 1990 to embark upon a grand tour, taking in those cities worthy of rock’n’roll blue plaques and which had free floor space for me to sleep on.

This explains why I found myself in New Orleans with two friends one night, on our way to see Peter Buck of REM playing a one off gig with Kevin Kinney of the long forgotten, and indeed barely heard of at the time, Drivin’ N’ Cryin’. Pete strummed, Kev crooned, I drank and smoked as was my wont. A good time was had by all.

Retiring to the French Quarter bar we had laughably come to call our local (after three days in town) we were somewhat surprised to see Pete’n’Kev stroll in for a spot of post-gig recreation. So, standing at a bar a couple of yards away from one of my heroes do I amiably introduce myself and explain the joy that his recorded works had brought me? I do not. Instead I recall a Tom Waits interview I had read some weeks previous in which the writer explained that mid-interview (in a bar) someone anonymously sent over a round of drinks to their table, by way of thanks. That’ll do I thought, so after ordering for myself I instruct the barman to “give the guy standing at the bar whatever he’s drinking”. “Which guy” asks the barman. This puzzled me slightly as there was only one guy standing at the bar and he was six foot four tall with shoulder length hair, looking, as you might expect, like someone used to filling football stadia with adoring fans. “The tall one” I replied between clenched teeth, resisting the sarcastic english urge to add “the one who looks like the guitarist out of REM”. Glancing uncertainly several times, the barman finally selects a beer from the fridge and with the self-assurance of someone who knows where the party is, strolls majestically past P. Buck and plants a bottle of Coors (“long, cool, golden and bubbly! C’mon.”) in front of the obligatory sad bloke drinking alone on the corner barstool. Compounding his error he then indicates to the OSB the origin of this largesse by jabbing his finger several times in my direction whereupon we stare at each other with mutual embarrassment as Buck wanders off to monopolize the pool table.

As luck would have it, my friends were less interested in recreating Tom Waits interviews and simply started talking to the mandolin wielding colossus of alt-rock. So eventually I did get to chat with him and offer the beer. He turned me down. And the bloke in the corner never bought me one back either.

3: I’m Oh So Quiet. Failing to chat-up Björk. For much of the 1990’s I was house-sharing with a girl desperate for a career in documentary film making and/or music. Her chief strategy in pursuit of this was to attach herself to the great and good in the hope that some stardust would rub off. This resulted not only in some bizarre phone conversations – I vividly recall 10 minutes trying to understand a man who appeared to be labouring with a severe adenoid infection, later to learn it was in fact Ice T – but also guest list access to some cracking gigs.

One such arose from her friendship with Talvin Singh, at the time musical arranger and de facto bandleader for Björk, then touring to promote her debut solo album, err, “Debut”. Not only did he put me on the guest list, bless him, but also invited me to the backstage party afterwards. Wooaaah! My ship had, indeed, come in.

I arrive at the Brixton Academy. Collect my laminated pass (nice). Do a bit of drinking, smoking and moshing whilst La Björk does a bit of warbling and kooky dancing. A good time was had by all. I flash the laminate and go backstage. Now, I don’t know if all backstage parties are like this or maybe I just caught a bad night. Naturally I’m expecting carelessly dressed supermodels airkissing each other and endearingly dodgy blokes with names like Art or Buddy offering me the Colombian gross domestic product. What I get of course is a room full of roadies all laughing smugly because after a lifetime of being abused, humiliated and emasculated they’ve finally found a job where they’re the alpha males. And free beer. Quite a moral trade-off I think you’ll agree.

Like any bad party, I end up standing to the side of the room away from the revellers and thinking, “I’ll just give it to the end of this beer, then I’ll go home.” I’m about an inch and a half from the bottom of the bottle when I become vaguely aware that someone has joined me in the sad-fuck corner of the room. Looking to my side, and then down a bit, I discover that the star of the show has chosen to stand next to me. Me, Kid – unconventionally attractive – Slender. Not only had my ship come in but it was also manoeuvering to dock in the Slender harbour!

So faced with the prospect of some one-on-one with the woman who the press were at this time referring to as a “scary puffin-eating ultrahoney” what do I say to draw her in to my web of seduction? How do I convince her that she has finally found the perfect companion with whom to nibble seabirds? Well my friends, these were the questions swimming round my mind at the time. What DO you say to Björk? Naturally I did what any self-respecting armchair lothario with low self-esteem would do – remained completely silent whilst still trying to recall the timetable for the Victoria line underground. After about two minutes of this she swished off with the static crackle of a dress made out of some space age material. Or maybe the sound was that of her eyeballs rolling in icelandic exasperation. It was, nevertheless, echoed by the gleeful guffaws of roadies as they high-fived each other’s arse-cleavage with schadenfreude.

Both I and, I hope, Ms Gudmundsdottir went on to find happiness elsewhere and her career doesn’t seem to have suffered for the absence of Slender input. But still, you’d think I could have at least tried.

2: Hey white boy. You’re chasing our linen around. Failing to score heroin with The Velvet Underground. We’re back to my american oddessey. Some weeks prior to not drinking with Peter Buck I found myself in New York. Naturally, after belting swiftly round the Museum Of Modern Art, the Guggenheim and the Chrysler building, the obligatory stop for any aspiring  self destructive rock’n’roll wannabe was “up to Lexington – 125, feel sick and dirty more dead than alive”. The legendary site of Lou Reed’s heroin supply immortalized in The Velvet Underground’s “I’m Waiting For The Man”.

I “hop” a subway train, discretely check my street map and make my way to the hallowed ground. To be honest I was a bit underwhelmed. Granted, I was there some 25 years after Lou and times change. But still, I had to admit to myself it wasn’t the most obvious site of chemical debauchery. Undeterred, I snapped away to immortalize the occasion. After all, who was I to question where Lou Reed should buy heroin.

Several months later I was proudly showing off the evidence of my travels back in blighty when my howling error was pointed out to me. I had, not unreasonably in my opinion, read Lou’s directions in a misleadingly english way. “Lexington – 125” I now realised, referred to the junction of Lexington Avenue and 125th Street in Harlem and not, as I thought, number 125 Lexington Avenue several miles further south in midtown Manhattan, the site, as my photos prove, of the Usha Saree centre (wholesale AND retail).

Alan and Rene Slender brought up their youngest boy to be nothing if not polite and to always think the best of folk. Consequently it had never occured to me that anyone should want to do something as sordid as buy drugs on a street corner. I just assumed you found the address of the nearest opium den and presented yourself to the proprietor. “Hello, I’m Lewis Allen Reed of rock’n’roll art happening combo The Velvet Underground. And I’d like to buy some drugs please.” “Certainly old chap” would come the reply from the Usha’s owner, “take the weight off your Chelsea boots. What’s yr poison?”

Which seems to me a much more civilized way to go about things. But maybe only if the author of your life is PG Wodehouse rather than William Burroughs. Which brings me neatly on to…

1: Not gay. Not fancy free and not even captain of the team. Falling at the feet of The Modfather. Dateline 1979. I’m 15, awkward, self-conscious, cocky, horny and feeling guilty about all of the above. Clearly it’s time for my first gig and who better to soundtrack my inarticulate teenage frustration than surburbia’s windmill-tilters par excellence, The Jam.

First gigs as we all know take a lot of planning. Not only the logistics of finding my way into and out of Leicester on a school night but also the tricky question of what to wear. Mods are an unforgiving bunch at the best of times and 1979 was particularly Stalinist with Quadrophenia in the cinemas and 2-Tone in the charts. Fortunately I had spotted the mod fondness for striped school blazers and the presence of same in a wardrobe at home. Unfortunately this had belonged to my grandfather, a man who left school in 1914 in order to join up. Which may well have been appropiate to the subject matter of the “Setting Sons” album the band were promoting, but was still 50 years before Carnaby Street’s regulation two inch lapels. In fact grandpa’s lapels could’ve comfortably accommodated a couple of election campaign rosettes should Mr Asquith have been considering running for office again.

Forging ahead regardless, I matched the blazer with a pair of drainpipe corduroy trousers (a fabric which to this day I regard with a near-erotic fondness) and a pair of hush puppies and launched myself into the sweaty edwardian splendour of the DeMontfort Hall looking, as the author of the excellent “1537” ( recently put it, like Bertie Wooster. Passing up on the drinking (clearly some years away from the need for shaving) and smoking (it would’ve played havoc with my table-tennis) I whirled dervishly with the kind of gay unselfconcious abandon that you can only muster at the age of 15. A good time was had by all.

However… as my nom-de-blog suggests, I’m not the world’s sturdiest chap. And the evening had been financed by a paper round to which I was forced to return at 6am the following morning. And the moshpit is no place for beginners. And those rock’n’roll folk do go on a bit don’t they? It all seemed a lot punchier and concise on Tiswas. I started to nod out a bit. Nothing serious, just the wish for a soft comfortable bed, a cup of Horlicks and the arms of Morpheus. Lurching back to full conciousness I found myself being forcibly propelled by concerned gig-goers to the relative safety of the stage. Over-estimating my weight based on the size of my lapels, far more force than necessary was used and I popped up out of the audience with the velocity of a salmon gamely trying to make it up a waterfall, landing uncomfortably on Paul Weller’s vocal monitor.

At this point there are, of course, only two options available to me. Either I stand up, straighten my lapels and stride heroically into the wings. Or I turn to face the audience, open my arms messianically and execute a perfect swan-dive into the throbbing melee. Sadly there was a third way which involved trying to stand up, slipping in beer, getting the hush puppies caught round the microphone lead and generally thrashing about at Weller’s immaculately shod feet. In front of a capacity 2,200 strong audience. Finally the roadies lost all patience and rushing on stage, dragged me away and flung me into the arms of a quite frankly rather over-zealous St. John’s ambulance volunteer.

To my credit, hearing the opening bars of “David Watts” I leaped up and resumed my pubescent whirling a cautious distance from the stage. Which in a way set the tone for the following 40 years – never getting too close to the action whilst dressed in an original yet wildly inappropiate fashion. I was by no means the only one to think so as at least two complete strangers approached my on the walk back to the train station muttering “it’s the bloke in the blazer. You all right mate?”.

Yes thanks, I’m just not as cool as I think I am.

JukeFox Journey! No. 10 – Journey’s End With Alan Birchenall

Who better to have the final word on the fox jukebox than Mr Leicester City himself, matchday host, The Birch. Racking up an impressive 163 appearances between 1971 and 1977 Birch returned to Filbert Street as Club Ambassador after his playing career ended and his tireless charity work provided the final astonishing post script to the premier league winning season when his life was saved by one of the portable defibrillators that his campaigning had financed.

So in an ideal world Birchenall would be listening to music which perfectly sums up the Leicester City fairytale. Well you know what? This IS an ideal world. So it should come as no surprise to find Birch’s 71 summers soundtracked by the well-nigh faultless Temptations.

“‘I’ve got sunshine on a cloudy day. When it’s cold outside I’ve got the month of May. I guess you’d say what could make me feel this way? My girl’. Perfect. Just perfect. Not a wasted word. Everyone talked about Dylan’s Nobel, but have you tried reading Tarantula? Are you telling me you understand Desolation Row? Me, I thought it was a cul-de-sac on the Braunstone estate. Nobody’s giving Smokey Robinson a Nobel prize though are they? Nah mate. Too simple. Everyone can understand it. Sunshine on a cloudy day? Anyone could write that couldn’t they? NO! We needed Smokey to write it ‘cos we couldn’t. It takes a genius to say something that simple and make it sound fresh and it takes a genius like David Ruffin to sing it convincingly. Like Leicester eh? Well drilled back four and a skinny frontman to bang the ball in the net.”

You know what Birch? You’ve got so much honey the bees envy you.

Postscript: Clearly I have, over the past season and a half, been playing a little fast and loose with the truth. So on the off chance that Leicester City’s highly paid legal team are trawling the net in search of libel I should like to make it quite clear that model professionals like Wes Morgan and Robert Huth do not spend their spare time quaffing cocktails. Nor for that matter is the blemishless Mark Albrighton as hopelessly addicted to Sunny Delight as I suggested. The story about Alan Birchenall’s defibrillator on the other hand is entirely true. As friends and family members alike will testify, I’m really not imaginative enough to make up something like that.

Bitesize! bob hund

In an attempt to curry favour with my diminutive swedish audience, I now present to you bob hund, entertaining swedish alt-rock hipsters since 1991.

Occupying the centre of a Venn diagram made up of Talking Heads, Captain Beefheart and The Rezillos they fulfil a function similar to that of The Fall in the UK,  inspiring as they do equal parts blind devotion and speechless bewilderment. And in the same way that I would expect to see The Fall struggling to find a receptive audience in Norrköping, the appeal of bob hund persisted for many years in passing me by.

Until, that is, they appeared on the excellent series They Call Us Artists.

The 21st century has seen the band reaching middle age, becoming parents and moving to different cities. Not having a common base presents, naturally enough, a not insignificant logistical problem when it comes to playing gigs. Six cars filled with gear and endless arguements over who takes care of the PA.

The band resolved these problems by resorting to the rock’n’roll equivalent of inter-railing. Stepping into the unknown they mounted, in 2013, their own bob hund festival at which they appeared, not on stage, but to auction off all the band equipment. Gigs now consist of the six members arriving in the designated town and then hitting the rehearsal rooms to introduce themselves to the local bemused teenagers with a cheery “hello, we’re bob hund. Can we borrow your gear?”.

Apart, obviously, from the cost-saving advantages of such an approach it has also the effect of boosting audience numbers as said bemused teenagers turn up to make sure these hairball oddballs don’t wreck their prides and joy. “Who are we meeting first” enquires singer Thomas Öberg, a man who for many years has been inexplicably performing in a half mask. A little like a Venetian fop. “My Mothers Climax” comes the straight faced reply. After a bout of musicianly haggling we are then treated to the sight of veteran guitarist Johnny Essing staring incredulously at a borrowed Gibson Flying V slung round his hirsuit neck.

Next up, having acquainted  himself with the nearest synthpop hopefuls, is keyboard player Jonas Jonasson. Leaning amiably towards the camera he confides “there are no bad synthesizers” as his rheumy eyes crinkle and his handlebar moustache twitches with joy at the discovery of the button that allows him to make gunshot sounds.

You could be forgiven for mistaking the band for camp clowns. Titles such as “The Stone Age Can Begin” and “Cheap Solutions At Any Price” may confirm your suspicion. But bob hund (yes, the lower case IS essential) continue a literary tradition of philosophy via whimsy (Kenneth Grahame, Boris Vian), a rock’n’roll tradition of climbing up PA stacks and display an admirably self-destructive talent for doing precisely the right thing at exactly the wrong moment. This, if you recall, was the band that declined to support Blur at the height of their britpoppery in order to continue their own tour of swedish sixth form colleges.

Like rock’s most notorious iconoclasts, they mean it. Maaaann!