Tag Archives: Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings

On Repeat

My love of music is well known, see multiple previous posts, but one kind of music just bugs the crap out of me – Christmas music. It is almost exclusively garbage, full of banality, cliche and triteness. Of course, there’s no avoiding it at this time of year, but at least once you leave the store you don’t have to deal with it until you walk into the next one. Nice to have the choice. Imagine having to listen to it for eight hours straight. This  is what my life has been like since the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. There’s no avoiding it and it is driving me crazy.

For the first two weeks I was subjected to an endless stream of garbage spewed out by a never-ending stream of third-rate session singers. Do you know just how many versions of  ‘Frosty The Snowman” there are? No? about a dozen by my reckoning, and all of them, with the exception of the Cocteau Twins version are dreadful. Imagine listening to each of them about four times each every day. Add in “Jingle Bells” “Winter Wonderland”, “Do They Know It’s Christmas” “Let It Snow” and every other bloody Christmas song you can imagine and you have some idea of the kind of audio hell my life has been.

DTKIC? is by far the worst, especially as one of the singers is doing what I’m going to say is his best to sound like Bono. It’s bad enough when Bono tries to sound like Bono, but I’ve heard better Bono impressions on a Friday night in Dublin after the pubs shut. I won’t even go into the fact that Africa has more Christians than any other continent, so yeah, I guess they do fucking know it’s Christmas. Imagine if Rachid Taha, Abdel Aziz El Mubarak, Cheb Khaled,  and other great African singers got together to record a benefit song for Europeans called “Do They Know It’s Ramadan?” I can just imagine the lyrics – “Feeeeed the woooorld, but only between sunset and sunrise”.

But the worst thing of all is that so many of these so-called singers try to rework the songs by slowing them down by about 75%. Have you ever heard an eight minute version of “Jingle Bells” which sounds like the singer has been told to count backwards from ten by the anaesthesiologist. A truly terrible example is the version of “Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree” I had to endure about four times a day. Before I moved over here, I associated the tune “Tannenbaum” with “The Red Flag”, and I can tell you, the Russian Revolution took less time than it took to listen to this song. And then of course, there’s the Vince Guaraldi version from the rarely seen animated classic “It’s the peasants and workers revolution, Charlie Brown”.

Lest you think I’m some kind of Grinch, I’m not,  ( See “Fuck Christmas’ to  be proven otherwise)although the thoroughly twee and sickening version of “You’re A Mean One, Mister Grinch” which misses the point of the song entirely and turns it into a semi-comic joshing is enough to make me decamp to the top of Mount Crumpit. I own two Christmas L.P.s – “It’s A Holiday Soul Party” by Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, which is just fantastic because, well… it’s Miss Sharon Jones. She does some well-known tunes, but my favourite has to be “There Ain’t No Chimneys In The Projects”. Nuff sed. The other is “Christmas Songs” by Bad Religion, in which they just storm through carols and Christmas favourites at full pace, driven along by a drummer who doesn’t pause for breath.

I only heard my all time favourite Christmas song once, and that was because it was playing on a customers’ car radio as I tied a tree onto the roof. I’m talking of course, about “A Fairytale Of New York” by The Pogues and Kirsty McColl. Of course there’s no way the store would play it, presumably because they don’t want complaints from parents who’ve just had their five year old ask “Mum, what’s a cheap, lousy faggot?” Also absent has been Siouxsie And The Banshees’ “Israel”, a classic, and well worth an airing, in my opinion. Last week wasn’t too bad  by comparison, as the Tannoy was playing original recordings, but you know that there’s no hope  for a song when even Mister Tony Bennett can’t save it.

Add to  this  the fact that we have had a Salvation Army bell-ringer camped outside for the whole time. It is a torture beyond compare. Send half a dozen of those guys to work at Guantanamo Bay and I guarantee that every inmate will confess to everything from the murder of Julius Caesar onward. It has been doing my head in, having to listen to the constant ringing, and I mean constant, except for the ringers’ breaks and lunch. I can tell you that if we had a longer cable for the electric chainsaw, the parking lot would have been filled  with T. V. camera teams. The absolute nadir was last Thursday when we were joined by some carol singers. These guys could actually sing, they sounded fantastic, but the bell ringer kept going, and the store was pumping out its usual programme, and to have all three of these competing sounds going at once was just too much to take. Every man has his breaking point,  and I reckon mine was less than a minute away when the carolers departed.

The thing is that due to tingling in my right hand brought about by loading and dragging all those trees I wake up about three or four times a night, and I can’t get back to sleep due to the discomfort and the fact that the songs from work are burned into my brain and have left a multitude of ear worms to torment me. Usually ear worms can be driven out by thinking of a song you like, but I just can’t get any songs I like to stick.

One thing of note has been that a lot of the songs have “Holidays” in the title instead of Christmas, as in “Home For The Holidays”, a song which to the best of my knowledge, along with a number of others, predates the start of Fox News’ bullshit narrative about the non-existent “War on Christmas”. FUCK YOU, SEAN HANNITY.  I’d like you to do something for me: turn towards New York and yell at the top of your lungs “FUCK YOU, SEAN HANNITY!”. Again, “FUCK YOU, SEAN HANNITY!!”. Once more “FUCK YOU, SEAN HANNITY!!!”.  There, don’t you feel better? I certainly do. I get a warm, fuzzy feeling just screaming the fucking words.

Merry/happy whatever holiday you celebrate.


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Last Night A D.J. Saved My Life

I’ve been putting this one off, as I’ve been somewhat unmotivated of  late, but recent events have got me going again. As you may well have realised, music is, and always has been an important part of my life. It has helped my through some pretty rough times, and made the good times even better. All you need to do is take a look at my post titles to work  out that music is a constant thread running through my life, but it goes a bit deeper than simply looking for appropriate titles.

I grew up  listening to the truly great John Peel and his impish, young sidekick Andy Kershaw on BBC Radio One. Peel is pretty much single-handedly responsible for bringing non-top thirty music to the BBC. As  far back as 1977 I can remember him playing the Buzzcocks’ “Spiral Scratch” EP in it’s entirety when no one else at Broadcasting House had even heard of them.  He kept on finding great bands and bringing them to the fore, and I can’t even begin to imagine how many tapes I filled over the years as I tuned in from 10 pm to midnight four days a week.

I would go as far as to say that Peelie was responsible for around 90% of my music collection. The bands he turned me towards led to other bands, and so on, in a situation that can only be described as rabbit holes all the way down. Kershaw was very much in the same vein, but with a different approach, and his contribution is not to be dismissed lightly.

Fast forward to 2014. I had finally gotten around to listening to KEXP on a regular basis. I know: I arrived here in 1992 and it took me this long to get round to listening to the only radio station that matters. This is due to a combination of pretty much ignoring new music during the whole of the 90’s and having an iPod. However, my sweetie convinced me to give the station a try, and I was hooked pretty much straight away. Not long afterwards, I awaited with great antici ……………………….pation ( I had to throw in that reference) the arrival of “International Clash Day #3”. I could only listen to the first hour on my way to work, and I was hooked. I heard some more on my way home and determined to preserve the day. This is where a touch of Aspergers helps, in that I copied the playlist into Word and then recreated as much of the playlist as I could – IN THE CORRECT ORDER. Yep. It helped that I had many of the tracks already and found many, many more without having to spend a fortune, and now the playlist sits on my iPod ready whenever I need a blast of great, great music.

It goes beyond that, though. KEXP  seem to be imbued with the spirit of John Peel, playing great music, regardless of age or provenance. I will admit that I’ve picked up on so many great acts just by tuning in whenever I get the chance – Tacocat, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, Phantogram, Underworld, Los Campesinos, to name but a few. One thing that really helps is that the D.J.s have total control over their shows, so they have the opportunity to react to events without having to get clearance from management or advertisers. This really makes them stand out. For example, in response to news of the Little Orange One’s Muslim ban, they played music from the seven countries affected. They devoted a whole day to the healing effects of music, playing tracks that had meaning to cancer patients and their families, A day given over to LGBTQ artists in support of Gay Pride, a whole day dedicated to the Beastie Boys’ album “Paul’s Boutique”, playing not just each track, but each track sampled for the album, in the correct order. Can you imagine the amount of work involved in tracking down each sample and the track from which it came? They even played “Should  I Stay or Should I Go?” followed by “Safe European Home” to kick off an afternoon devoted to British artists the day after the Brexit vote – totally spontaneously and much appreciated by yours truly

This kind of dedication really pays off: Every D.J. really cares about the music, and you can’t help but pick up on the enthusiasm. I’m not a Rockabilly fan by any means, but as “Shake The Shack” is on on Friday evenings, I get to hear quite a bit of the show as I run my daughter to and from her horse riding lessons. I’m never going to splash out on tickets for a concert, but I’ve really come to enjoy the genre – it’s always uplifting, fast paced and often quite humourous. I can see why some people are devoted to it, and I certainly wouldn’t turn the show off.

Being publically funded, they have regular spring and autumn pledge drives – a phrase that strikes dread into the hearts of most pubic radio and T.V. fans. However, not so this year. You see, last autumn I could afford to donate to the station, and felt very happy about it, not least because of the awesome tee shirt and hoodie I received as gifts in return for my donation. Of course, if I can afford it, I will re-up this autumn, and this meant that I didn’t turn the radio off during the pledge breaks.

Considering that the Toxic Revenger has pledged to end all funding for public broadcasting, this makes the pledge drives all  the more important, especially for those of us who want to hear more than just cool jazz, young country, oldies or classic rock when we press the ‘on’ button. I mean, where else can you hear Norwegian Rockabilly, Chilean Rap,  Portuguese  Hip Hop or Mexican Punk? Did you even know those genres exist? You  do now!



















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Filed under KEXP, Music, Public broadcasting, Radio