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Category: top ten (page 1 of 2)

The Facebook Top 25 songs meme: it’s not quite a top ten, but it’ll do

This came across Facebook in a note entitled “25 Songs You Can’t Live Without”, and I figured there was no point in writing it up when there was a perfect opportunity to score a free blog post out of it.  So, here it it:

Once you have been tagged, you are supposed to write down the top 25 songs you cannot live without. The ones you can listen to over and over and never get tired of. They don’t have to be in any particular order. These are the songs that make you laugh, cry, think of an old friend, whatever the reason. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If you were tagged, it’s because I’d like to see what you’d put in your list. To do this, go to “notes” under tabs on your profile page, paste these instructions in the body of the note, type your 25 songs, tag 25 people, then click publish.

  1. The Immigrant Song – Led Zeppelin :: It’s by Led Zeppelin, and it’s about vikings. What could possibly be more awesome?  And it was kind of our Rover Crew official theme song.
  2. Spybreak! – Propellerheads :: I first discovered this song as a result of it being the soundtrack to the lobby gunfight scene in The Matrix, but it’s just generally one of my favourite tunes. Almost impossible not to groove along to.
  3. Do  Your Thing – Basement Jaxx :: It’s bouncy and a bit stupid, but it’s one of my all time best “happy” songs.
  4. Oh Yeah – Yello :: Nobody who grew up through the 80’s can resist a smile if they hear “Chicka-chickaaaaa….”.  Some even let a deep-voiced “Bom bom” escape. And of course it’s virtually the anthem for Ferris Bueller.
  5. She Caught The Katy – The Blues Brothers :: Straightforward 8-bar blues, opening song to one of the best film soundtracks ever.
  6. Jean Pierre – Marcus Miller :: Proof that the most basic riffs can be the best. Effortless, understated, and totally cool.
  7. You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away – The Beatles :: I kind of fell in love with this song at the age of 15 whilst watching the Beatles’ film “Help!”. It has a slightly melancholy feel without being downbeat, and I liked the tune. Then, irritatingly, some pillock went & said that it was about Brian Epstein trying to pretend he wasn’t gay.
  8. Better – The Screaming Jets :: Aussie 80’s pub rock; for me synonymous with my first year in Adelaide Gang Show. They played this at the aftershow cast party in the theatre foyer/canteen, and I remember having a great time with that crowd & never wanting to leave to go home.
  9. Boom! Shake The Room! – DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince :: I’ll concede 100% that the initial reason I liked this song was that Emma from Glenroy Venturers liked it and I thought she was really cute.  However since then I’ve grown to like it just because, well, cos I do. I also like the fact that it was huge in the UK when it came out, but not in the US, and Will Smith was worried that the invitation to do a promo tour was some sort of practical joke.
  10. Operation Go – Instill :: Instill are a bunch of lads from the New Forest who I saw supporting Hayseed Dixie once. I’ve no idea what it was about them which grabbed my attention, but I can’t stop listening to their stuff. If pressed to describe them I usually go for “bullshit rock” – it’s not really comedy, just that their topic matter’s a bit leftfield (not as leftfield as Elliot Mason).
  11. Kong Foo Sing – Regurgitator :: Actually it’s not even the whole song – just the introductory chords. G’DANG-DANG! (Dv-dvvv-dv-dvvvv-dv-dvvvv-dv-dv) G’DANG-DANG! Etc.
  12. Stuck In The Middle With You – Stealers Wheel :: We had this song on the jukebox every Monday night at The Sussex after rehearsal. Love it.
  13. Dies Irae – Karl Jenkins (Requiem) :: The single most “Batman” sounding bit of classical music I’ve ever heard.
  14. Crucifixus – Antonio Lotti :: Great memories of singing this on choir camp. Not sure if I even ever did it in a performance – just one of those great moments where a group of people who can sing are sitting in a room singing to themselves because they love singing it.
  15. Nowhere With Love – Harry Connick Jr. :: Harry’s a total dude. I love his style, and his work. What’s not to like about a song with the lyrics “It’s better to be happy in a cardboard shack / than to be alone in a castle / All you get for your money is a heart attack / I’d just as soon alleviate the hassle”.
  16. Monday Don’t Mean Anything – Alabama 3 :: Personally I could ascribe significance to the literal meaning of the chorus, as Monday don’t really mean anything to me, along with any other day of the week or time, really, however the reasoning here is really just that I really like the tune. Probably not so relevant is the whole MDMA component.
  17. Big Bottom – Spinal Tap :: “My baby fits me like a flesh tuxedo / I’d like to sink her with my pink torpedo”. Spinal Tap are awesome.
  18. Shine On You Crazy Diamond – Pink Floyd :: Pink Floyd are one of my favourite bands ever, and were I to give a less representative Top 25 list you’d find that 9 of the slots were taken (in order) by the track listing of Dark Side Of The Moon. Shine On, however, for me sums up Gilmour’s understated & elegant guitar style, and there’s a lot of memories tied up in this song of Spiro & I doing night hikes up to Woodhouse. And eating frozen cheesecakes.
  19. Target – Baterz :: Taken from us sadly all too early in 2002, Baterz was one of my favourite Adelaidean singer/songwriters, who had a penchant for the ridiculous. This is a great little tune about something quintessentially Adelaidean – pretending you’re buying something at Target in the City so you can stand under their huge air conditioner on a hot day.
  20. Albuquerque – Weird Al Yankovic :: This list is erring away from the artful, isn’t it?  Weird Al is the world’s finest musical parody artiste, and Albuquerque is his awesome Frank Zappa tribute.
  21. US Forces – Midnight Oil :: Probably the first Midnight Oil song I remember being able to recognise.  I don’t even know why I like it so much, because I’m not a particularly political person. Great tune though, and I guess I feel it important to have one of their songs in my list.
  22. Weapon Of Choice – Fatboy Slim :: Yes, the video was excellent, but more than that – along with most of Fatboy Slim’s other songs – it’s just a frigging groovy tune.
  23. Istanbul (Not Constantinople) – They Might Be Giants :: What a cool song!
  24. Run – Spiderbait :: It seems that at least half of Australia’s Generation X were into The Goodies, so when alt-rockers Spiderbait covered it in their characteristic frenetic style there seemed little doubt it would be awesome.  And it is.
  25. White Wine In The Sun – Tim Minchin :: Beautiful rationalist Christmas song, which ain’t too silly and ain’t too soppy, and leaves me feeling happily wistful every time I hears it.

Dawwwww, that’s nice, isn’t it.

Chances are if you asked me tomorrow it’d be an entirely different list, too.

    Top Ten Tuesday: Songs we used to sing at campfires in Cubs & Scouts

    The most generic relevant image I could find.

    The most generic relevant image I could find.

    Yes, I know today’s Friday.

    This may be in part inspired by my recent-ish reunions with former Torrens Park Cub Pack alumni Ben Glazier, Jeremy Cochran, and via t’internet, Alex Brooks.  Or maybe it’s the product of a mind desperately searching for stuff to make lists of.

    In any case – here’s a list of 10 of my favourite songs that we’d sing at Cub camps.  Typically the campfire would be led by our Group Leader – initially Frank Brooks, then Terry Arnott – and the Torrens Park tradition seemed to include the erecting of a church hall-style overhead projector and screen so you could sing along with the words without the need to print out multiple song sheets.  Yes siree, environmental awareness in action!

    I can’t decide if these are in order or not, so lets assume they are.

    1. A Ram Sam Sam

    This one’s in the list because I used to just find it really silly: the actions to accompany are when you sing “ram sam sam” you slap your open palms on your thighs, on “guli” you clap (once for each), and “a ra-fi” you stick your hands up in the air, spread your fingers out, and jiggle them side to side a bit.

    A ram sam sam, a ram sam sam
    Guli guli guli guli guli ram sam sam
    A ram sam sam, a ram sam sam
    Guli guli guli guli guli ram sam sam
    A ra-fi, a ra-fi
    Guli guli guli guli guli ram sam sam
    A ra-fi, a ra-fi
    Guli guli guli guli guli ram sam sam

    Latterly, this song has been rewritten with the words “A Pizza Hut, A Pizza Hut, Kentucky Fried Chicken and a Pizza Hut”.  Needless to say, I disapprove.

    2013 UPDATE (and it’s not often you read *that* around here):

    Following a recent-ish snow trip to Austria (home of some of the most ridiculous music you’ll ever hear, in the form of pounding Apres-Ski anthems), I was delighted/horrified/bemused to discover that thanks to an individual names Lorenz Büffel, this song of my childhood was now an Apres anthem – sung and bobbed along to with enthusiasm in many outdoor bars by europeans wearing bizarre and unfashionable outfits, as they drink liqueurs which by rights should have gone out of production the minute the 1970s ended.

    Anyway, here’s the song.

    We didn’t dress like that at Cub Scout Campfires.

    2. Mules

    On Mules we find two legs behind
    And two we find before.
    We stand behind before we find
    What the two behind be for.

    When we’re behind the two behind
    We find what these be for,
    So stand before the two behind
    Behind the two before.

    3. Show Me The Way To Go Home

    Not the regular version, of course (remember, we still think this funny, because we’re 9 years old).

    Indicate the way to my habitual abode
    I’m fatigued and I’m eager to retire
    I had a small refreshment 60 minutes ago
    and it went straight to my cerebellum.
    Wherever I may ambulate
    On land or sea or agitated water
    You can always hear me chanting this melody
    Show me the way to my habitual abode

    Equally amusing (to somebody, I guess – couldn’t quite work out who) was the locally-amended version:

    Show me the way to go home
    Said the girl on Semaphore Beach
    I had a wetsuit about an hour ago
    But it’s floated out of reach
    And all I have on now is sand and sea and foam
    So won’t you lend me a page of your Sunday Mail
    And show me the way to go home.

    4. Campfire’s Burning

    This’d be the token sentimental one in the list – we’d always finish up the campfire sing with this, so it was the perennial “last song”.  Plus, nobody seemed able to tell us what “gloaming” was.

    Campfire’s burning, campfire’s burning
    Draw nearer, draw nearer
    In the gloaming, in the gloaming
    Come sing and be merry

    5. Ging Gang Gooly

    Apparently this is a British textbook slang mainstay used for hassling Boy Scouts with, but again – at the age of 9 or so it seemed pretty good fun to sing.

    Ging gang gooly gooly gooly gooly wotcha,
    Ging gang goo, ging gang goo.
    Ging gang gooly gooly gooly gooly wotcha,
    Ging gang goo, ging gang goo.
    Hayla, hayla shayla, hayla shayla, shayla, ho-o,
    Hayla, hayla shayla, hayla shayla, shayla, oh.
    Shallawally shallawally shallawally shallawally,
    Oompah, oompah, oompah, oompah. (this bit goes on, as you break into a round and the other team starts singing the first bit)

    According to The Source Of All Internet Knowledge, this song courted controversy when a theory circulated that “goolie” was taken from the Hindi word meaning “ball”, and that this song was somehow a depraved ditty conjured up by Baden-Powell to get boys to sing about testicles.  Sounds like a load of bollocks to me.

    6. The Quartermaster’s Store

    Pretty simple this one – you cook up something that rhymes to stick in the first and third lines of the verse, and then go to the chorus.  It’s a participation one, so people get to make their own rhymes up, which is what makes it more interesting & fun.

    There were gators, gators, eating the potatos,
    at the store, at the store,
    There were gators, gators, eating the potatos,
    at the quartermaster’s store.

    My eyes are dim, I cannot see
    I have not brought my specs with me
    I have… not… brought… my… specs… with… me

    And a few verses in when the leaders get a little tired of it, the chorus changes to:

    My eyes are dim, I cannot see
    I left my specs in the lavatory,
    I left… my… glasses… in the lav.. a… tree.

    Hours of riotous fun.

    7. My Breakfast Lies Over The Ocean

    To the tune of “My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean”.  But it’s about spewing.  So a clear favourite.

    My breakfast lies over the ocean,
    My dinner lies over the sea,
    My stomach is in a commotion,
    Don’t mention my supper to me.

    Bring back, bring back,
    O bring back my bucket to me, to me.
    Bring back, bring back,
    O bring back my bucket to me.

    I really felt rotten this morning,
    They tell me I really looked pale,
    My stomach gave adequate warning,
    To lean far out over the rail.

    The sound of a stomach in motion,
    A murmuring noise inside me,
    I looked down and there on the water,
    Was breakfast and dinner and tea.

    Bonus marks for making the “BRRRRR” in “Bring back” sound as authentically like retching up as possible.

    8. She’ll Be Coming Round The Mountain When She Comes

    Quite repetetive, but broken up by the addition of the noises at the end of each line.  As the verses progress, you append each.

    She’ll be coming ’round the mountain when she comes. (Toot Toot!)
    She’ll be coming ’round the mountain when she comes. (Toot Toot!)
    She’ll be coming ’round the mountain,
    She’ll be coming ’round the mountain,
    She’ll be coming ’round the mountain when she comes. (Toot Toot!)

    She’ll be riding six white horses when she comes. (Whoa back!)
    Oh, we’ll all go out to meet her when she comes. (Hi Jo! Hi Flo!)
    Oh, we’ll kill the old red rooster when she comes. (hack hack!)
    Oh, we’ll all have chicken and dumplings when she comes. (Yum Yum!)
    She’ll be wearing pink pyjamas when she comes. (Wolf Whistle)
    And we’ll wear our bright red woolies when she comes. (Scratch Scratch)

    So in point of fact, the 5th verse would be:

    Oh, we’ll all have chicken and dumplings when she comes. (Yum Yum, Hack! Hack! Hi Jo! Hi Flo! Whoa back! Toot Toot!)

    9. Singing in the Rain

    Another progressive song with participation – maybe I remember these fondly because it meant standing up doing stuff rather than sitting down reading song lyrics and singing about Gloaming.

    Singin in the rain (what are we doing?)
    Just siiiiingin in the rain (dollar! dollar!)
    What a glorious feeling
    I’m hap-hap-happy again
    HOLD IT! (Hold it!)
    THUMBS OUT! (Thumbs out!)
    A-roo-cha-cha, a-roo-cha-cha, a-roo-cha-cha-CHA!
    A-roo-cha-cha, a-roo-cha-cha, a-roo-cha-cha-CHA!

    Singin in the rain, etc.

    Wrists together
    Elbows together
    Knees together
    Heels together
    Bums out
    Tongues out

    So there you have it!  I realise that that’s not strictly 10 songs, but before the 10th the other thing I just remembered was that usually at the bottom of each overhead projector slide would be some kind of decorative row of characters to show that that was the last line.  Quite often whoever had typed the sheet up would add a centre-aligned:

    *********

    underneath the final line.  After years of thinking about it, I’ve realised that THIS was the source of my developing pedantry.  As a couple of the leaders from Hawthorn Scouts (who we used to sometimes do combined camps with) used to find it amusing to include that as a final song line.  Meaning you’d hear “So stand before the two behind, behind the two before.  Star star star star star star star star star”.  So there you go Mum – I’ve deduced that Hilding Hanna and Marten Schurmans are to blame.

    10. The Sexual Life of a Camel

    (It’s important to note that we didn’t sing this at Cub Camp.  I picked this one up many years later during my brief but spectacular tenure with the Flinders University Choral Society.  It remains, however, my all-time favourite campfire song.  Although not one I can put at the top of a list like this, clearly.)

    The sexual life of the camel,
    Is stranger than anyone thinks,
    At the height of the mating season,
    He tries to bugger the Sphinx,
    But the Sphinx’s posterior orifice,
    Has been blocked by the sands of the Nile,
    Which accounts for the hump on the camel,
    And the Sphinx’s inscrutable smile.

    Singing: bum-titty-titty, bum-titty-titty, titty-bum.
    Singing: bum-titty-titty, bum-titty-titty, wheeeeeeeeeee!
    Singing: bum-titty-titty, bum-titty-titty, titty-bum.
    Singing: bum-titty-titty, bum-titty-titty, whee.

    In the process of civilization,
    From anthropoid ape down to man,
    It is generally held that the navy,
    Has buggered whatever it can.
    Yet recent extensive researches,
    By Darwin and Huxley and Hall,
    Have conclusively proven that the hedgehog,
    Cannot be buggered at all.

    We therefore believe our conclusion,
    Is incontrovertibly shown,
    That comparative safety on shipboard,
    Is enjoyed by the hedgehog alone,
    Why haven’t they done it a Spithead,
    As they have at Harvard and Yale,
    And also at Oxford and Cambridge,
    By shaving the spines off the tail?

    That’s all.

    Top Ten Tuesday: Numbers between 1 and 100

    What a goldmine of entertainment this will be.

    10. 67 – For some reason this was the first “lucky number” I ever adopted.  I’ve no idea why, as it doesn’t hold any particular relevance to anything for me.  Matter of fact, it’s not even that visually impressive.  I think it’s the sound it makes.

    9. 88 – two fat ladies!  Maybe a couple of pretzels, or really fat ants.  Nice symmetry, as well.

    8. 8 – an infinite loop, and I also like that the Italian word for 8 is “otto”, which itself is symmetrical too.  Terry Pratchett was really on to something when he visualised win his Discworld a land where the number 8 had special significance.

    7. 12 – just one of those numbers that turns up everywhere… 12 months in a year, 12 hours on a clock face, 12 bars to a blues tune, 12 disciples, 12 ladybugs at the ladybug picnic.   And of course it’s the number needed for the totally excellent Sesame Street song in the video below:

    6. 64 – my affection for 64 is probably borne out of enthusiasm for the 1980’s home computer that we had with this number in the name.  Plus the Beatles song.  Mainly the computer thing.  64 is a one of the binary powers (1000000, or 26), but to me it sort of sounds like the first number of that set that sounds like it’s got something to do with computers.  2, 4, 8, 16 and 32 just sound like normal numbers – whereas you *know* that 64 is a divisor of 128, 256 and 512.

    Didn’t I say this was going to be pure entertainment…?

    5. 3 – is the magic number.  Yes it is, it’s the magic number.  Triangles rock.

    4. 69 – DUDES!

    3. 42 – “A completely ordinary number, a number not just divisible by two but also six and seven. In fact it’s the sort of number that you could, without any fear, introduce to your parents.”

    2. 37 – won’t have to explain this one to the Clerks fans.

    And my favourite number between 1 and 100 is…

    (you’re not going to like this)

    Ready?

    1. – mmmmm… pi…

    Okay, that’s all.

    Well, not quite all – clearly the numbers from 1 to 10 are special in and of themselves, and what better way to recognise this than by having them recited, in order, by James Earl Jones.  No, you’re right: there IS no better way.

    Top Ten Tuesday: 1970s/80s British Comedians that I’ve been within 50 feet of

    This is largely inspired by last night’s gig, Ade Edmonson & The Bad Shepherds – I turned to The Puzzler and said “How far do you reckon that distance is between me & Ade?”, and he said “About 50 feet?”.  And almost instantly I came up with this list.  And technically it was before midnight, so it’s still a Tuesday list.  Alphabetical order, sort of.

    Ade Edmonson – primarily famous for his epic stint as Vyvyan in seminal share-housing documentary “The Young Ones“, his current venture is a folk band based on the music of Cumbria, where they reinterpret British Punk songs.

    ade

    Alexei Sayle – didn’t snap a photo because we saw him in an Indian restaurant around Bloomsbury, and it seemed a bit rude to get all paparazzi over korma.

    Dawn French & Jennifer Saunders – admittedly this wasn’t an in-the-wild spot, so much as that we bought tickets to their show at the Theatre Royal on Drury Lane.

    Mel Smith – the half of comedy duo Smith & Jones with the slightly larger surface area, director of “The Tall Guy“, and one of the stars of awesome yet little know film “Brain Donors“.  Smith turned up in Oxford as the compere of a show that I found my way into while at a loose end several years ago.

    Michael Palin – serial nice guy, world traveller and 16% of Monty Python.  I’ve seen him a couple of times now, but the 50-feet spotting was at a charity screening of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  This subject of this photo appears to be the back of his neck.

    palin2

    Nigel Planer – instantly identifiable as Neil from The Young Ones, now a frequent sighting in West End musicals.  When we went to see Wicked (at the time still starring the incomparable Idina Menzel) my obstinacy surrounding the purchase of show programmes meant having the pleasant surprise of realising that Nigel Planer was playing The Wizard Of Oz.  I also remarked to someone at one point that the role of Madam Morrible would have been quite well-played by Miriam Margolyes, before then glimpsing someone else’s programme and discovering that the actress I’d just been watching in that role was in fact Miriam Margolyes.

    Rik Mayall – the third Young One on my list: I saw him at the New Wimbledon Theatre, reprising his role as politician Alan B’Stard in the revival tour of The New Statesman.  Being in the front row, I was able to see more or less right up his cavernous nostrils.  Plus, in the show’s… errm… climax, he tore open a condom packet and threw the wrapper into the crowd, which fluttered down and landed on my foot.  No, I didn’t keep it – I let some wide-eyed, sweaty-palmed fangirl at it.  It’s what B’Stard would’ve wanted.

    Stephen Fry – you don’t really get any points for seeing Stephen Fry in London…  don’t get me wrong – I pretty much adore everything the guy does, but it would be say that if you go to a radio panel game recording you’ve got about a 50% chance of seeing him there.  Richie has started referring to life here as “the continuous Stephen Fry experience”.  Though probably most remembered for his roles in Blackadder and A Bit Of Fry And Laurie, he’s been part of the British Comedy Mafia since his days in Cambridge Footlights.

    Terry Jones & Terry Gilliam – we bagged 2 more Pythons in Trafalgar Square as part of the world record attempt at the Largest Coconut Orchestra (successful).  Technically Gilliam’s American, but I felt that 1/3 of Monty Python was worth an entry in this list.  The Puzzler snapped these photos, and yes that IS Terry Jones on the left.

    terrys

    Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graeme Garden & Bill Oddie – as it was the same event where this spot took place, it counts as a single.  The occasion was the launch of their second DVD of The Goodies episodes, complete with Q&A session afterwards, at The Prince Charles Cinema off Leicester Square.  I saw one of Bill Oddie’s nipples, and Timbo told me I had a “smart hat”.

    goodies_and_me

    There you go – 3 Pythons, 3 Goodies, and 3.5 Young Ones (assuming you count Alexei Sayle as half a Young One).  And I didn’t even have to justify including the time I bumped into Felicity Kendal in Marks & Spencers.

    Top Ten Tuesday: Monty Python Sketches

    With the 40th anniversary of Monty Python’s Flying Circus happening this week, and prompted by having spotted another similar list, I thought maybe I’d apply my brain power to the topic of which are my favourite Python sketches (thereby resulting in a far superior list).  By “sketch”, I’ve sort of included pieces from the movies, as well.  Chocks away…

    1. The Last Supper

    I totally lose my shit every time I watch this.

    The actual painting of Michelangelo’s The Last Supper is on the wall of a church in Milan, but as it turns out, you’ve got to book at least a week in advance in order to reserve a time to see it.

    2. Latin Lesson

    Cleese doing impatient authoritarian, with rabid stickling for trivial detail.

    3. History of the Joke

    Nicko, TimO, Brett & I got to perform a version of this on stage once, and the hardest part was maintaining the straight face, especially when just prior to performing we’d be thinking about previous rehearsals of the three-course-complex.

    4. Cheese Shop

    These things really need no introduction, do they?  This classic comes up nearly every time there’s more than one person hovering around a supermarket dairy section.

    5. Four Yorkshiremen

    The sketch that gave a million Python enthusiasts a nice little “secret handshake” of a codeword to slip in to conversation in order to recognise others of the same ilk.

    Luxury.

    6. Loretta

    It’s the Cleesian frustration at play again here in the face of illogical idealism which appeals to me.

    7. Constitutional Peasants

    This sketch is going to be the only reason why a 12 year old has ever heard of anarcho-syndicalism.

    8. Exploding Blue Danube

    I don’t know what I like more – the exploding instrumentalists, or the idea that an orchestra might set up in a field.

    9. Summarise Proust Competition

    Having reached number 9, it’s apparent that none of these little introductory notes I’m putting here are actually adding anything of any value to this top ten list, and the videos largely speak for themselves.

    10. Prices on the Planet Algon

    Not one of Python’s more famous sketches, by any stretch of the imagination – again, I guess it’s the obsession with irrelevant detail which is the charm here.  Produced during the 1970s, a time where people were very much interested in the potential of what we might find in space, this sketch concentrated on how much various groceries and other items might cost on the newly discovered planet Algon.  And how could you not enjoy lines like:

    Reporter: But I think we’re getting some pictures now from Algon itself, and it looks as though… yes! The satellite has found a bird! The probe has struck crumpet and she looks pretty good too! Professor?

    Professor: Ja – she’s a. real honey!

    I’ve put 4 more here: they’re not really candidates for the Top 10, because they’re a bit too short to qualify as sketches, but they do crease me up every time I watch them.

    Batley Townswomens’ Guild Recreation of the Battle Of Pearl Harbour

    Shaving

    Venus

    And now… music!

    (and the added bonus of Gilliam animations like the last two is that you find yourself giggling when you eventually see the original works in European museums & galleries.)

    Top Ten Tuesday: Pubs in London

    Oh boy, another ludicrously tough call, this.  Not that that’s ever stopped me wading in and then realising I’d made several mistakes after the event…  London has lots of pubs.  Many, many pubs.  Some of them are very good.  Some, however, are excellent.  Here are ten of those ones.

    The Jerusalem Tavern (Clerkenwell)

    Nice nice, cosy bolthole of Britton Street – quite famous, and often impossible to get a seat in.  But it somehow feels Dickensian, and of course they’re the only pub in London to have the St Peters beers on tap.  My favourite is the Ruby Red, but most of their beers are happily drinkable. [http://www.stpetersbrewery.co.uk/london/default.htm]

    The Royal Oak (Borough)

    Excellently preserved old Victorian boozer, with nice big windows so it doesn’t have the dingy feel that some of them do.   The beers are superb – they specialise in the beers of Harveys of Sussex, who I’m yet to see produce a bad pint.  Fairly roomy place, although understandably popular.  One I need to spend more time in. [http://www.fancyapint.com/pubs/pub1228.html]

    The Jugged Hare (Pimlico)

    This is now my default pub for pub lunches around work – the converted bank does a great line in Fullers beers (my current favourite being the Honey Dew), and they also dish up some top quality grub.  If you’re going to meet with people, it’s a good one.  Probably not a place to get a great buzz going, but it’s a bank, innit. [http://www.fancyapint.com/pubs/pub1521.html]

    The White Horse (Parsons Green)

    Nice big roomy bar, often full of Jarrad & Tristan yah-yah types (hence its alternate name, “The Sloaney Pony”), but home to a stunning range of beers.  The last few times I’ve been in they’ve had 5 real ales, 5 imported beers, and 5 “miscellaneous” beers, as well as a formidable range of lagers, bottles, and who knows what else.  They quite often run beer festivals, and on the whole it seems like quite a decent enterprise. [http://www.whitehorsesw6.com/]

    The Bricklayer’s Arms (Putney)

    Seems a natural followup to the White Horse, as nearly every time I’ve been to one we wind up at the other.  Well, it’s far, isn’t it?  Cosy, local feeling boozer which champions the Timothy Taylor range of beers – I’ve been in there when they’ve had 5 of them on, which seemed worth celebrating with a pint of each.  They do a great roast, and if you can get the spot next to the fireplace in winter then you’re sitting on an absolute A-list pub experience. [http://www.bricklayers-arms.co.uk/]

    The Gunmakers (Clerkenwell)

    Nestling in a back street off Clerkenwell Road, this is the pub in London which gains the hallowed moniker of “My Local”.  Not that it’s really anywhere near work or my home.  It’s cosy, friendly, the food’s outstanding, and Jeff & his team seem to have a sense of customer service that many other places seem totally unaware even exists.  The people in there usually seem happy to chat with anyone about, and as if all that weren’t enough, the beers are nothing short of spectacular.  Jeffrey usually keeps Timothy Taylor Landlord and Harveys Sussex Best on as regulars, and then rotates through some absolutely corking guest ales.  And a better pint of Landlord I’m yet to find.

    I hope I haven’t overdone it? [http://thegunmakers.co.uk/]

    The Seven Stars (Holborn)

    To be truthful, I’ve only been in here once, and was nursing a hangover at the time.  I fully intend to go back though as it’s a rare gem.  Again, nice beers, nice buzz, friendly staff who were very welcoming despite us being interlopers, and great food too.  The landlord’s name is Roxy Beaujolais, and the pub cat is named Tom Paine – and has often been known to wear a ruff.  The only problem with heading here is that my brain seems to go into autopilot and take me to The Gunmakers. [http://www.fancyapint.com/pubs/pub192.html]

    The Montague Arms (New Cross)

    The Puzzler and I embarked on a Sunday Roast mission to this place largely at my suggestion: it was clear from the outset that I had no idea where New Cross was.  Once I’d found the building I had to hunt for a while to find an entrance that hadn’t been boarded up, and was on the brink of giving it up as being condemned when I spotted fairy lights.  Inside was an interesting mix of nautical decor and taxidermy, and as I waited I heard some excellent banter wafting about.  The roasts were what could only be described as “frigging cheap” (I think £5.50 for large roast plus pudding), the beer was ok, but the end-to-end thing was priceless.  My favourite moment was the old blind bloke who wandered in, set himself up on the Hammond organ in the main room, bumbled and abandoned his way through about an hour and a half’s worth of West-Side-Story stylised showtunes, and then wandered out again. [http://www.myspace.com/themontaguearms]

    The Trafalgar Free House (Morden)

    Compact estate pub in the Deep South which had me thinking “are we in Kansas any more?”, but once you’re there it’s got a nice buzz on and quite often has some cracking jazz playing in the “front room” (insofar as it’s ostensibly a one-room pub).  I was impressed with the beer last time, with O’Hanlon’s Yellow Hammer on tap that night.  Definitely heading back here! [http://www.thetraf.com/]

    The Star (Belgravia)

    Seems a safe bet to include this one, as it’s been reportedly included in every edition of CAMRA’s Good Beer Guide.  I first learned of this courtesy of one of our morris dancing tours and visit it at least once a year on that basis.  Nice beers, nice food, great ambience, with the only downside now being that because of the neighbours complaining you’re now not allowed to stand out the front and enjoy your beer. [http://www.fancyapint.com/pubs/pub933.html]

    And try as I might, I can’t justify fitting these 2 into the top ten anywhere, but thought I’d mention them given the frequency with which I seem to find myself propping up a wall in either:

    Quinn’s (Camden)

    The bright yellow & blue barn of a pub with pictures of top-hatted gents and ballgown-bedecked ladies painted on the windows: a family run Irish boozer which has an incongruously large range of Belgian and German beers in the fridge, along with all the usual suspects.  The floor looks suspiciously to be made out of the kind of material that hoses off easily, but we’ve had some excellent nightcaps in there and though you never seem to start there we always seem to finish there.

    De Hems (Chinatown)

    One of the upsides of being located in the heart of the West End is that you don’t really have to do too much in order to get people in the door.  As such, the service at De Hems is wildly inconsistent, ranging from engaging smiles (as I got last Thursday night, in abundance) to straight out being ignored (a Saturday night).  It’s a Dutch pub, but as there’s only a couple of interesting Dutch beers out there, they borrow largely from the arsenal of fellow lowland Belgium, which can be lethal.  Again, despite it often being a loud, impersonal pain in the arse of a place, we seem to wind up back there nearly every time we’ve seen a West End show.

    Of course this list fails to address many of the pubs I’m happy to go to, such as The Cardinal, The Hawley Arms, The Albany, The Porterhouse, The Betsey Trotwood, The Richard Steele, The Nag’s Head at Belgravia, The Cat’s Back, The Edinboro Castle, The Princess of Wales, The Pembury, The Market Porter, The Dovetail, The Harp, The Lamb & Flag, The Red Lion & Sun, The Speaker, The Lexington, The Camden Head in Angel, The Spread Eagle, The Crown & Goose…  ok, stop.  That’s it.  Push the damn “post” button already.

    Top Ten Tuesday: Things I’ve performed in front of a crowd

    What? Where’d this idea come from? Oh well… here goes anyway…  I guess it’s worth stating that it’s the top ten from my perspective – if any audiences thought differently they’re more than welcome to keep it to themselves.  So, in no particular order, but definitely the top 10:

    Don’t Worry, Be Happy – Flinders University Choral Society, “Clunk” concert

    The Clunk concert was a bit of a collection of amusing material – in as far as choral stuff ever is – which was put together as a Christmas concert.  Every single piece was great fun to sing: we processed in to an a capella rendition of the Doctor Who theme.  But for me the highlight was singing Bobby McFerrin’s most famous piece, Don’t Worry Be Happy.  It was a nice funky bassline, and I liked the inane sustained “t’coo-coo, t’coo-coo”s that the tenors had to sing for a change rather than them always getting the good bits.  I wasn’t so sure about the conductor solo’ing the spoken part – clad as he was in tails and boxer shorts (for added hilarity).  Top sing though, and lots of fun.

    Arnold Schoenberg’s “Gurrelieder” – Perth International Arts Festival,  Gurrelieder Festival Chorus, 2003

    Fortuitously between-jobs at the time, an APB went out for male singers to participate in this project, with the organisers paying airfares for people to attend.  The choir called for 400 voices; I think we got about 190, but it was an almighty racket – the first time in the southern hemisphere Gurrelieder had been performed, and conducted by Maestro Diego Masson.  It was a splendidly bombastic German bit of noise (prior to Schoenberg’s movement into atonalism), but featured some stirring choral sections.  During the performance I was seated in the dead centre of the choir balcony, and somehow managed to drift off to sleep during the first half.  Wide awake during our bits though.  Truly staggering stuff, and judging by the extended ovation, the crowd dug it a bit too.

    gurrelieder

    Don’t Tell The Abbott – Adelaide Gang Show, 2003

    A profoundly silly song for the lads in the cast, and one which I’d seen my heroes perform years earlier.  The rush here was mainly from having the chance to do it, rather than what anyone thought, though it does have a nice build to the silliness, so by the end of the song we had the audience laughing raucously every night.  Plus we got to dress up in monk outfits.

    Everybody Needs Somebody – Jamboree Opening Ceremony, 2003

    Performing in front of around 12,000 people is always going to be a buzz – in this case we tried not to think too much about the fact it was more than likely a hostage audience – and what better way to go about it than don the jackets, ties, hats, and shades of Jake & Elwood.  Dylan was Elwood, and man did we give it plenty.  Thanks to some shocking under-rehearsal and a lack of chemistry between us and the orchestra, there was an “extended bridge section” where Dylan and I were looking nervously at each other while the band kept playing the 8 bar refrain, and as it turned out were waiting for one of us to belt out “Sometimes I feeeeeeeel…..” as their signal to carry on.  But we just kept dancing around for a bit.  Knackering.

    jamboreeSeeing as I just found the photo and it’s sort of relevant, we also performed the Monty Python sketch, sometimes entitled “Comedy for Beginners”.  You’ve never felt the sinking feeling of standing in front of 12,000 adolescents and speaking from a lectern, and they suddenly think that you’re giving a speech.  Thankfully, Amy strutted out in her lab coat at the correct moment, and they realised that it was comedy.  And then started shouting “show us your tits”.  Yes, these kids were about 11 or 12.

    jamboree_comedy

    There’s A Light At The End Of The Tunnel – Comedy Capers, 1996

    My first ever solo lead – complete with awesome light-up costumey bits.  Good fun song, right in the guts of my vocal register, and there were dancing girls.  It was a song from Starlight Express, but you can’t have everything.

    1996_2

    The Roadkill Song, and The Sailors Arms – FUCS Camp Revue, 1995

    Bruce, Benno and I decided to hop up at camp revue and sing a charming little number we’d borrowed from Marty, Richie and Jamie on the topic of the joy of roadkill, and followup with The Doug Anthony All Stars’ infamous paean to lusty transvestite romance.  Top shelf comedy, 3 blokes and a guitar – what more could you ask for?  Admittedly we didn’t do so well on the 3 part close harmony or raw sex appeal part of emulating DAAS, but we had a damn good time.

    Morris Dancing, Trafalgar Square, 2005

    I don’t want to go on too much about it in light of my previous blog entry, but to be able to get dressed up in a vaguely silly costume and dance in Trafalgar Square to an appreciative crowd of a couple of thousand was a memory which will stay with me for a long, long time.

    Theatresports contest, as part of DNA (The National Dyslexics Association) – PASSPORT performing arts camp, 1993

    We were pretty much forced into being in the Theatresports contest, but our little team of Lee, Richie, Jamie and I did alright and made it into the final 8.  We were knocked out in the first round, but it didn’t matter – we’d proved to ourselves that we could fly by the seats of our pants in front of a few hundred people and be entertaining about it.

    Aladdin Medley – Cantabile Singers, Norwood Town Hall, December 2000

    How exactly I came to be part of a predominantly septagenarian choir doesn’t leap readily to mind, but it did mean getting a decent whack at any solo that called for a young male voice, in this case, that of the titular Aladdin – “Gotta keep, one jump ahead of the breadline, one sweep ahead of the sword”, etc.  Plus the venue was the Norwood Town Hall, so there were a few punters in.  And I was in love with an amazing girl at the time. AND we were all wearing Hawaiian shirts on stage at the time!  I mean seriously, life doesn’t get much better.

    Old MacDonald song – Adelaide Gang Show, 2003

    As a farewell gift, almost, the producers of Adelaide Gang Show let Marty & I write and then perform in our own sketch – and again, what’s not to love about putting a self-confessed pair of chronic hams in tuxedos and straw hats, and then sing a comedic version of a childish song based around some quasi-amusing animal impressions, and an awful, awful punchline?

    So… there you have it!

    Of course, if you can think of anything else I’ve done that was particularly excellent, feel free to mention it in the comments below.  And having said that, I’m now counting the seconds until someone mentions the “Splish splash, I was taking a bath!” incident.

    Top Ten Tuesday: Whisky

    When I say “whisky” (for anyone not 100% clear on this), I mean Single Malt Scotch Whisky – not Bourbon, or Irish whiskey, or blended whiskey, or any of the other things that go by a similar name.  Whisky is something which has brought me many new experiences ever since first tasting it in around 1993.  Accumulating – and then demolishing – a modest collection back in Australia, my transition to this side of the world has meant greater access to a greater variety of styles, and it seems silly not to share a few highlights with you now.  I might hasten to add that I don’t own all of these things (in case you’re wondering)!

    Bruichladdich Blacker Still – I like to think of this as Spinal Tap Whisky, because how much blacker could the bottle be?  None… none more black…  We first learned of it at The Machrie Golf Course bar on our Great Whisky Tour of 2007 – its smoky, sweet, dark flavours had us interested straight away, and our mission for the rest of the trip was to try to snag some.  Sadly, the distillery claimed that they had none left), and our hunt high & low proved fruitless.  It turned out that part of the reason for scarcity was that it was a release of about 2500 bottles.  We managed to track a couple down in Germany though.  They’re hens’ teeth now though.

    blackerstill

    Bowmore Darkest – it’s obvious from these first two entries that my predilection is for sherried peaty whiskies, isn’t it?  Bowmore Darkest is exponentially cheaper and easier to find than The Blacker Still, however.  It’s a bit drier and saltier, but still backs that “peaty fist in a velvet glove” that I love.  The old bottling (pictured here) was a 14yo, and the newer packaged one is a 15: differences subtle, but still a lovely dram.  We presented a bottle of this to Uncle Robert as a thankyou for the Edinburgh trip in 2007, and we polished off 2/3 of it over dinner.

    bowmore_darkest

    Glenfiddich Gran Reserva – back on the expensive shelf, this 21yo Speyside whisky is aged in Caribbean Rum casks.  The original bottling was entitled “Havana Reserve”, but apparently this didn’t impress the US consumer market, so it got a retitling.  It’s since been through again and bears the imaginative moniker “21 Year Old Caribbean Rum Cask”.  It’s got nice chocolatey, coffee flavours to it, as well as a bit of citrus, and the smooth maltiness of the aged Glenfiddich heart – none of the flavours are too strong or overwhelming I find though, and it’s very easily drinkable.  And by sheer stroke of luck I managed to pick a bottle up for £35 on the way out of Gatwick one day off a clearance shelf!  Not bad, when the current price seems to average around £65.

    gran_reserva

    Ardbeg 10yo – back to peat, and this one’s an absolute classic.  It’s the flagship product of the Ardbeg distillery, and I reckon if I’m out for a night and looking for a default one-dram whisky to finish, and this is behind the bar, then there’s no further analysis needed.  Having said that, I don’t own a bottle of 10yo.  It’s clean, it’s deep, and it sticks around for a week after you’ve swallowed it.  But only one for fans of the smoky flavour.

    Glenrothes 1991 – man, I must’ve been on crack when I drafted the order of this list…  If there was ever a diametric opposite of Ardbeg, it’s Glenrothes 1991.  Glenrothes produce a different tasting whisky every year, so the year of production is critical if you’re after a particular one.  The 1991 (as we discovered at WhiskyLive) is a light, delicate, and spicy concoction, with a vanilla taste to it too.  It’s my number 1 go-to whisky when people say “Oh, I really don’t like the taste of whisky” – haven’t yet found anyone whose mind wasn’t expanded by meeting the ’91.

    Glenrothes_1991

    Glenlivet 18yo – probably a large sentimental connection to Glenlivet, as it was my first single malt.  I was introduced to these fine things by Whisky Bill in about 1993, and my bank balance has never recovered.  Glenlivet 12yo is what you might call a nice “standard” easy-drinking Speyside malt, which you can relax with and spend a bit of time getting to know.  The 18 adds a layer, making for a nice toffee, nutty, sweet but not overpowering or sticky dram, with a hint of peat playing around in there, but not the sort of peat you see in the big iodiney, salty, oily Islay offerings.  One of the reasons I insisted we visit Glenlivet on our tour (aside from the “homecoming” element) was that I’d joined the distillery’s “club” (aka PR Exercise), and in the welcome pack you receive a key which unlocks a “secret door” at the distillery, and in the room you & your guests are welcomed with a dram of the Glenlivet 21yo.  Lovely whisky, but I found it a bit of a guilty pleasure.  Comfortable with the 18, though.

    glenlivet18

    Ardbeg Supernova – if you were to sum this up in one word it’d have to be “experimental”.  There was something of a quiet “peat war” going on up on Islay last year, with Bruichladdich announcing the release of their so-frigging-peaty-you-wouldn’t-believe-it-oh-matey Octomore (peated to 141 parts of phenol per million), and almost silently Ardbeg pushed out their 100+ppm “club members only” Supernova release only days beforehand.   It really, really is peaty.  The Ardbeg 10yo comes in about 40ppm, and the Supernova is so peaty it almost burns.  It’s lovely.  I mean, not as a regular drink, but as a way to experience what’s possible it’s just sublime.  I’ve not tried some in a couple of months, but I remember the nose being deceptively gentle, and it’s not til you get it on your tongue that the fireworks really begin.  If you had an extreme cold, you’d be able to taste this stuff through it, no problems.  You wouldn’t taste anything else for a week afterwards though (no, not a pre-dinner dram, unless you’re eating army food).

    Supernova committee green

    Glengoyne 12yo – yep, definitely on crack.  Going from the most heavily peated beasts ever manufactured to Glengoyne: a distillery which uses no peat at all!  This was the first distillery I ever toured, back in June 2004.  All of the Glengoynes are amazingly easy drinking – I don’t put water in mine – but the 12 has something… a taste that sticks around longer than the others…  it’s sweet, but not sherry-sweet, rich, not overpowering, mellow…  actually, I’m useless at describing whisky.  I just really, really like it, OK?

    Balvenie 21yo Port Wood Finish – I like to call this “Pirate Whisky”.  It’s not because Pirates drink port (they don’t they drink rum), or because they park their boats in ports…  it’s just something about the taste that immediately makes me think it’s the kind of thing that you could drink in the Captain’s Cabin.  Bloody gorgeous stuff.  Only tried it once, and haven’t ever gathered the courage to stump up £72 for a bottle, but it was fan-bloody-tastic.

    balvenie_port_21

    Glen Elgin 12yo – picked this up in an airport and demolished most of it in one sitting with housemate Emzo.  A nice malty & minty easy-drinker.  You don’t see it around so much, but it’s not too expensive, and definitely a welcome addition to any shelf.  If you buy some, let me know and I’ll come around & help you with it if you like.  It was the first bottle on my UK shelf to be completely drained.

    Brora 28yo – back into rare country, this is another one not on my shelf.  But oh how I wish it was.  Brora closed down in 1983, and there’s a load of different bottlings around of their stuff (quite often whisky bottlers would buy single casks from distilleries and then do their own bottling runs – it’s great for variety and interest, and no doubt for flogging more cash out of completists).  I can’t remember ANYTHING about this Brora, other than that it was 28 years old, and that I utterly adored it.  Have you ever had something that you knew you loved, but were so busy enjoying it you didn’t stop to think why?  Well, that.  And sadly – Richie informs me – the bottle’s empty.

    Oh buggeration, that’s eleven.

    Oh well!  I guess just forget about the Brora.  It’s not like you’re ever going to see one.

    If anyone’s wondering about the current state of my shelf, it looks something like this:

    the_shelf

    Although the Russell Brand book’s not there any more, and nor is the bottle of Old Pulteney – which met the same fate as the Glen Elgin.  Lower-right is the “new” bottling of the Bowmore Darkest.

    Top Ten Tuesday: Albums

    Tricky, this one – many people would argue that one’s top ten albums are one of the most important and revealing lists a person can publicly make.  I’ve always maintained that in my hypothetical Desert Island Discs list, I’d take 5 copies of Dark Side Of The Moon just in case one or two of them got scratched.  Unfortunately though in the context of one’s top ten albums that only leaves you with a list of six different albums.

    If we’re talking top 10 in that sense:

    1. Dark Side of the Moon (Pink Floyd) (x 5 copies)

    Quite simply, my favourite thing ever.  I don’t know what I can say about it that adds anything to the massive body of information people have already written about it.  I mean, the thing was in the album charts for 14 years.  So what do I like about it?  The lyrics speak of the human experience.  The music’s texturally interesting – sometimes dreamy, sometimes cynical, intense, relaxing, bleak, rich.  The hair on the back of my neck stands up every time I listen to The Great Gig In The Sky.  Of course it’s massively hyped: anything this size is going to be.  But I don’t for one second believe that it’s all unjustified hype.  Matter of fact, think I’ll put it on right now.

    2. Blood Sugar Sex Magik (Red Hot Chili Peppers)

    Admittedly this one is as much about importance & memories as it is about the actual music.  Although I don’t think there’s any denying that this is RHCPs best release – it’s certainly the one that fired them into mainstream acclaim, and for me it epitomises the laid back funky sound that I love them for.  Released in 1991 it was also very much a part of my mid to late teens, an amazing time for me when I made an amazing group of friends – many of whom I still keep in touch with as close mates.

    3. Mothership (Led Zeppelin)

    Released in 2007, this compilation is the perfect argument solver – I don’t think I could ever pick a single Led Zeppelin album, and certainly would struggle to name my favourite… but in terms of the best selection of songs on an album (not a box set), Mothership’s the way forward.

    4. No Quarter (Jimmy Page & Robert Plant)

    Not that I’m Led Zeppelin obsessed (I am), but No Quarter for me provides some excellent alternate versions of some of my favourite songs, performed with the genius & skill of Page & Plant, but featuring the stylistic musical excursions the project took into other musical cultures.

    5. Decksanddrumsandrockandroll (Propellerheads)

    Top album for grooving out, with some really strong material: Echo & Bounce, Take California, History Repeating, Bang On, and the best thing from The Matrix Soundtrack, Spybreak!

    6. Exhile on Coldharbour Lane (Alabama 3)

    I’ve really gotten into A3’s style of country/blues/acid house, and their first album gets a proper old workout in my iTunes regularly.  As a sidenote, I love that they’re not a 3 piece, and none of them are from Alabama.

    And then assuming we in fact mean top 10, and I’m only allowed one of each, then we make the difference up with:

    7. Out Of Hell (Baterz)

    I miss Baterz.  I really really do.  He was a brilliant singer-songwriter with a wry sense of humour and an air of feral aristocracy, and having him on this planet made it just that little bit sillier.  Out of Hell contains some of my all-time favourite songs – “Zombie Girl” (the only song I’ve heard that begins with the words “Today my girlfriend died”), “Spidermother”, the touching ballad “Target’s Air Conditioner”, and the magnificent “Giant Squids”.  It wasn’t strictly a comedy album: more the workings of what I thought was a fascinating mind.

    (Incidentally, in case there are any Baterz enthusiasts reading this who don’t know already – the tribute album Great Big Squiddy Fun is now out & available.  I like it a lot.)

    8. Joe’s Garage (Frank Zappa)

    Speaking of insights into a fascinating mind, Frank’s music would never feature on a list entitled “easy listening”, but over the last couple of years I’ve grown to love his attitude.  I’ve picked Joe’s Garage from Frank’s prodigiously large catalogue almost entirely because it contains the phrase “model XQJ-37 nuclear powered pansexual roto-plooker”.

    9. Schwang (Goose)

    Awesome 16 piece funk/soul/jazz combo from Adelaide & Melbourne – I’m always impressed that they can coordinate so many people to ever put on gigs in the first place…  A great, bright, funky, fresh sound.

    10. Off The Deep End (Weird Al Yankovic)

    Weird Al is another musician with prodigious output, and has maintained a career through his amazing eye for detail in mimicry along with his brilliant sense of humour, and ability to embrace multiple musical styles.  My only criticism of him is that I get a bit bored with his middle-of-the-road tendancy to write songs about food, however even those are always pop-parodies of exceptional pedigree.  Off The Deep End contains the spot-on song parodies Smells Like Nirvana, I Can’t Watch This, and Blame It On The Drain, as well as the stylistic Beach Boys parody Trigger Happy, and one of my favourite original Al songs, You Don’t Love Me Anymore (which I ill-advisedly attempted to sing at a talent night at the age of about 16).

    Irritatingly, Robert Plant & Strange Sensation’s “Live in France” recording hasn’t been released as an album, so I can’t put it into the list.

    Top Ten Tuesday: Cartoons

    Being careful here not to make the same mistake as a British TV poll of the public regarding their top 100 cartoons: this is specifically a list of the cartoons/series, rather than a list of some series, some characters.  And it’s all cartoons, too – no other forms of animation.

    1. Daffy Duck / Looney Tunes & Merrie Melodies

    Immediately breaking the rules in the preamble, I’ve gone and singled out Daffy.  Don’t get me wrong – Bugs, Elmer, Foghorn Leghorn, Marvin, Wile E. Coyote, Porky, et al are all amazing (for proof of this, you need look no further than Chuck Amuck – the biography of Chuck Jones, one of the main animators of these golden gems), Daffy is head and shoulders the winning ingredient, and I don’t think there’s a cartoon that features him that isn’t a winner.  The countless hours my colleagues and I – particularly one Dr Spiro, the goat enthusiast – have spent watching, quoting, re-watching, re-enacting, and reminiscing about the Robin Hood one (“YOIKS, AND AWAYYYY!”), Duck Dodgers in the 24 1/2 Century, Ali Baba Bunny (“Ickety ackety oop…”), Duck Amuck, and even back to earlier drafts where Daffy’s MO was skipping across the top of ponds making a crazed “Woohoo! Woohoo!” noise…  Time well spent.

    2. The Simpsons

    Now in its 20th year, there’s not much point in explaining what The Simpsons is all about.  The fun started though in about season 4 or 5 when the creators realised that it was all about Homer, rather than making it Bart-centric as they had been.  I love that friends of mine have formed entire relationships with each other based on quoting Simpsons material to each other.  There are just too many ways I love this show to ever begin to list them all in a short summary like this.

    3. Don Hertzfeldt’s “Rejected”

    What’s not to love about a white fluffy smily cloud thing shrieking “FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, MY ANUS IS BLEEDING!!!”, while his friends giggle and dance in a line next to him?  Rejected is an amazingly screwed up short film, which showcases the work of aspiring animator Hertzfeldt and his various attempts to pick up advertising contracts, and how they are all rejected.  It’s magnificently malevolent.  You can more than likely find it on YouTube, but I’d recommend the DVD featuring other examples of Don’s equally twisted work.

    bleeding

    4. Freakazoid

    Ridiculous teen-superhero show made possible by the insistence of Spielberg, Freakazoid was A-class silliness which it appears that nobody ever saw.  It was running mates with the Animaniacs, and operated in a similarly anarchic way.  The titular Freakazoid was a superhero, created when teenager Dexter Douglas got zapped into his computer via a series of keystrokes his cat pushed when walking across the keyboard.  I loved the way Freakazoid transported himself – turning into a lightning-bolt-with-a-face sometimes, or most of the time forming his arms into a point over his head and running forwards whilst making airplane noises.  In addition to these main cartoons, the producers also sometimes included smaller adventures by lesser superheroes, such as the transparently-Cleesian Lord Bravery.

    5. Futurama

    Maybe I’m a sucker for sci-fi… maybe it’s just plain funny…  there was plenty to love in the series about Philip J. Fry, a pizza boy who was inadvertantly frozen for 3000 years and brought back to life in The Future.  It got a bit mawkish towards the end (when the writers had presumably resigned themselves to the fact the show wasn’t being recommissioned), and the newer movie-length episodes don’t quite cut it like they used to (though they’re still pretty good).

    6. Pinky & The Brain

    Megalomaniac arch-genius rodent, The Brain, lives in a lab cage with his buddy Pinky (whose IQ is so low he really should be watered 3 times a day), and constantly plots & connives new ways of taking over the world.  Presumably The Brain only keeps Pinky around because there’s nobody else available to be his henchman – you do wonder whether or not The Brain would be better off to go it alone than to repeatedly suffer Pinky’s “assistance”.

    7. Danger Mouse

    Cartoonists seem fixated with mice, it seems – vintage 1980’s British action hero Danger Mouse lives under a pillar box on Baker Street, and is accompanied everywhere by his bumbling assistant, Penfold (a hamster who wears glasses and a suit, naturally enough).

    dangermouse

    8. Father of the Pride

    I discovered this gem whilst staying in a hotel in Brussels – it’s a Dreamworks project, set in the wilderness habitat of Sigfried & Roy’s lion show in Las Vegas, and following elder lion Sarmoti’s disasterous faux-pas during a stunt routine, his son Larry is promoted to Head Lion – much to Sarmoti’s chagrin.  The voice cast includes John Goodman, Cheryl Hines, Carl Reiner, Orlando Jones, and some A-list guest talent: the show is satirical & often surreal.  As far as I can gather, transmission was delayed/hushed up because of real-life Roy’s mauling, and that some uptight Americans thought that emblazoning the show with “From the creators of Shrek” was going to be problematic due to it being considered less family-friendly than Shrek.

    FatherPride

    9. The Super Globetrotters

    What could possibly be better than a 70’s cartoon about the Harlem Globetrotters?  Well, it’s a 70’s cartoon where the Globetrotters turn into superheros – specifically, a spaghetti man, a dude who can become fluid, a guy who can multiply himself, one turns into a basketball, and my favourite – “Gizmo” – a guy with a massive afro, in which an infinite number of things appear to be stored.  Week after week their satellite watchdog boss, the Crime Globe (again, shaped like a basketball), would alert them to some emergency with the cry “Wa-HOOOOO-ga! Wa-HOOOOO-ga! Now dig this…”, and whatever the marauding that was taking place the situation always seemed to be decided by way of a basketball game.

    supglobe

    10. Star Blazers

    There were a few cartoons which, as it later turned out, were Japanese cartoons which had been bought up by American production companies, re-cut, redubbed, and sold under a different name.  One was the excellent Battle Of The Planets, but the one on my list was Star Blazers – originally the Japanese series Space Battleship Yamamoto.  It was set in the future where the evil Gamalons (lead by their commander, Desslok) are bombing the crap out of the Earth’s surface, and the people are all hiding undergound in caves.  Learning of a technology that can save them on the planet Iskandar, the humans restore the ruins of an old battleship (the Yamamoto) and transform it into the Argo: sporting whizzy new Wave Motion Drive system, and a sodding great cannon in the front (the Wave Motion Gun).  I loved this show – I think most of all because to a 10 or 12 year old it was unbelievably cool that every week the Argo would be on the verge of destruction, but then fight back using their thumping great big cannon.  It was also genuinely scary, I think in part because the animation was geared for adult audiences and was such a departure from the other saccharine fare on Saturday morning TV.  However I also seem to recall that the radar operator was a cute (if 2 dimensional) brunette called Nova, who was the first proper woman I ever had a crush on (Sandra from my grade 1 class didn’t count… at least not the way I’m telling it now).  She also had some kind of radar screen-dome thing that looked like a pair of boobs.

    starblazers
    There you go – there’s 10.  I’ll bet I’ve missed some really good ones.

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